Friday, July 02, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

Google has announced that it will offset the costs of legal discrimination against its same-sex employees:

Google will begin covering the extra costs that employees in committed same-sex relationships incur because of the legal differences between marriage and domestic partnership.

According to a 2007 report from the Williams Institute, a research group that studies policy issues surrounding the LGBT communities, domestic partners will pay about $1,069 more a year in taxes than a married employee with the same coverage.

“If you were to add it all up, it’s not like we are talking hundreds of thousands per employee,” said Laszlo Bock, Google’s vice president for people operations. “It will cost some money, but it was more about doing the right thing.”

In other words, they're paying people to turn gay. It's time to partner up and collect!

Apropos of which, Iceland has legalized same-sex marriage, and the country's prime minister has accordingly married her partner:
Icelandic Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir has married her long-term partner, her office said on Monday, making her the world's first national leader with a same-sex spouse.

Sigurdardottir, 67, married writer Jonina Leosdottir on Sunday, the day a new law took effect defining marriage as a union between two consenting adults regardless of sex.

The two had had a civil union for years and changed this into a marriage under the new law, which was approved by parliament earlier this month.
A new law in New York state will make it easier for midwives to practice their love:

New York State midwives had a big victory on Wednesday with the unanimous passage of the Midwifery Modernization Act (MMA) in the New York State Senate. It had already passed the Assembly and will have to be signed by the Governor.

New York City home birth midwives were essentially put of out business by the closure of St. Vincents Hospital on April 30th, because it was the only hospital that would provide them with a signature on their Written Practice Agreement (WPA). The MMA removes the requirement for a WPA, allowing these midwives to practice once again. This doesn't mean the midwives won't work with back-up physicians and hospitals, but it does mean that finding a doctor to sign won't be a barrier for them.

A male birth-control pill may be available in as little as three years:
Researchers in Israel have finally been able to create an oral pill that deactivates sperm before they reach the womb. And they’ve developed a version that means it only needs to be to be taken once every three months.
A new Palestinian radio station is run by and for women:
Founder and manager Maysoun Odeh tells VOA the station wants to entertain, but also empower women. "We broadcast success stories of women regionally, internationally, or locally in which they can take example from, and they know that they can do something and they can achieve something regardless of the situation," she said.
Dr. Michael Mann has been exonerated once again of any wrongdoing:

Few if any American climate scientists have been as falsely accused — and thoroughly vindicated — over both their academic practices and scientific results as Dr. Michael Mann.

Today, Penn State issued its final and complete exoneration of Dr. Michael Mann in the matter of his scientific practices “for proposing, conducting, or reporting research,” primarily related to the famous — and thoroughly vindicated — Hockey Stick....

And this “Investigatory Committee of faculty members with impeccable credentials” not only exonerated him unanimously, they did so even though one of the scientists they interviewed in the course of their work was the much debunked, shameless defamer of climatologists, Richard Lindzen!
The US State Department has decided not to build a training center in the middle of an endangered squirrel's habitat:
Just hours after the Center for Biological Diversity announced it would sue over the project, the federal government today scrapped plans to build a sprawling State Department training center in rural Maryland in habitat for the endangered Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel. The Foreign Affairs Security Training Facility had been proposed for the Ruthsburg area.

“It was clear from the outset that bombing and live-ammunition exercises shouldn’t be conducted anywhere near these rare squirrels,” said Bethany Cotton, a staff attorney at the Center. “This is a victory not only for the fox squirrel, but also for the rural character of Queen Anne’s County.”

Washington state is planning to build the country's first electric highway:

Washington state is about to turn a section of Interstate-5 — all the way from Canada to Oregon — into the nation’s first electric highway. Thanks to a $1.32 million federal grant, they’ll be able to install 10 Level-3 electric charging stations along the route. Each station is capable of charging at 400 volts and 30 amps or more and at these stations a typical EV would be 80% charged in just about 30 minutes. Plug in, grab a cup of coffee, chat with fellow travelers, and be on your way.

Britain claims that it will not expand Heathrow and other airports:

Building new runways at three airports near London would make it hard to meet Britain's target to reduce greenhouse gases, the government argues. It would also increase noise and air pollution. Besides, like new highways, more runways will only encourage more frequent use, such as jetting off to Spain and Prague for the weekend.

Africa's largest wind farm is now up and running:

The first phase of a massive renewable energy plan is now in place in Morocco with the official opening of a 165 turbine wind farm just outside of Tangiers. Official sources say that the wind farm — located in the town of Melloussa — is the largest on the African continent. The wind farm was inaugurated today by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI and is estimated to have cost about $250 million dollars to install. The final project — which includes solar, wind and hydraulic power — will supply Morocco with 42% of their total power needs.

An appeals court has rejected General Electric's bid to strike down EPA cleanup regulations:

A U.S. appeals court rejected on Tuesday a legal challenge by General Electric Co to the federal Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) orders that direct companies to clean up hazardous waste....

The ruling was a setback to GE's long-running effort to overturn a provision of Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, known as the Superfund law that seeks to ensure that polluters pay for the environmental hazards they created.

The detergent industry has finally announced a voluntary ban on phosphates:
Activists have been trying to get phosphates banned for 40 years, but soap-makers have lobbied intensively, claiming that it was impossible to remove that ingredient from their products (or that if they could do it with laundry detergent, it couldn't be done with dishwasher detergent, and so on). But over the years, many green soap-makers have shown the public that it could be done.

Yet another study shows that organic farming methods can be more productive than conventional ones:
Supporters of organic agriculture got a boost on Thursday with a scientific study that said pesticide-free potato farming improved control over crop-munching insects and delivered bigger plants....

In organic fields, where the use of agricultural chemicals was closely controlled, pests and predators evened out, the researchers found.

Pest densities in these fields were 18 percent lower, and potato plants were 35 percent larger, than in conventionally-farmed fields.

Britain's NHS will no longer fund homeopathy:

The British Medical Association (BMA) has voted to stop offering homeopathic treatment on the NHS....They also say that homeopathic products should no longer be labelled “medicines” and should instead be marked “placebo” when sold in pharmacies.
A new chip that mimics human lung behavior could reduce the need for animal testing:

The device, about the size of a Tostito chip, breathes like a lung and is transparent, allowing researchers to watch for inflammation and make real-time measurements of how much of an aerosolized medication or a toxic substance — or how many nanoparticles, whose health effects are poorly understood — make it into the simulated bloodstream. The lung chip will therefore reduce the need for animal testing. It could also allow environmental health advocates to counter the questionable human-subject research that the pesticide industry fought the EPA to allow.
Bent Objects. A gallery of unicellular organisms. Landslide taxonomy. A little treatise on egg art. The Candela Structures. A Russian train cemetery. And some remarkable photos of London during the 1944 blackouts.

Desktop Earth. The world of threads. The Robert Winslow Gordon Collection of folk songs. Unseen Hands: Women printers, binders and book designers (via Peacay). A new Antarchitecture. And winter in Berlin, or vice versa.

The British Cartoon Archive (via Coudal). Discoveries of the 20th century. Propane grilling vs. charcoal grilling. The Television Production Music Museum. Walls, trash-art and Lenin, courtesy of Photocoma. And all the colors of the sun.

Also, a cartoon.

(Photo at top: "Clapper Bridge, Kingston" by The Retronaut, 2010.)


grouchomarxist said...

Since I'm still not finished with checking out last week's Hope Blogging, I'll try to get ahead of the game for once and say a belated "So glad you're back!", plus a big thanks for this week's hope and brain fodder. said...

Have to say, I'm ambivalent about the male birth control thing. Still wouldn't trust a man who said he was on it, maybe if he's my husband and there's a reasonable assumption that he's got skin in the game, so to speak. But any woman who believes a man who says "it's OK baby, I'm on the pill" is a fool.

I guess there are men who could say they've had vasectomies ...

Phila said...

Have to say, I'm ambivalent about the male birth control thing. Still wouldn't trust a man who said he was on it, maybe if he's my husband and there's a reasonable assumption that he's got skin in the game, so to speak. But any woman who believes a man who says "it's OK baby, I'm on the pill" is a fool.

Very true. But as you say, that's also true with vasectomies (and neither method prevents STDs, of course). Plus, I'm sure you've heard stories about men surreptitiously poking holes in condoms, or messing with women's birth control pills, or what have you.

But there are responsible men out there too, and this will help them. Also, the combination of a male pill with a condom would presumably offset the failure rate of condoms (or diaphragms, or the female pill), which I think would be a good thing.