Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

Medicare has finalized new rules that affirm the right of hospital patients to choose their visitors:

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today issued new rules for Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals that protect patients’ right to choose their own visitors during a hospital stay, including a visitor who is a same-sex domestic partner.

“Basic human rights—such as your ability to choose your own support system in a time of need—must not be checked at the door of America’s hospitals,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Today’s rules help give ‘full and equal’ rights to all of us to choose whom we want by our bedside when we are sick, and override any objection by a hospital or staffer who may disagree with us for any non-clinical reason.”

Arizona's racial profiling law may have cost it $45 million in convention business:
Spinoff effects bring economic losses into the hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the study, commissioned by the Center for American Progress, a liberal policy group in Washington. Potential future effects of fewer convention bookings could mean Arizona will receive an overall hit of more than $750 million, the study said.
The British Beekeepers' Association will stop endorsing the use of pesticides that kill bees:

The British Beekeepers' Association has today announced plans to end its controversial practice of endorsing pesticides in return for cash from leading chemical manufacturers.

The endorsement of four products as "bee-friendly" in return for £17,500 a year caused outrage among many beekeepers because one of the companies, Bayer Crop Science, makes pesticides that are widely implicated in the deaths of honeybees worldwide.

In related news, the EPA will ban endosulfan:

Endosulfan is an antiquated, dangerous insecticide used on tomatoes, cotton and other crops that is a pervasive pollutant of waterways and a threat to numerous endangered species. It has also has been linked to endocrine disruption, reproductive disorders and other severe effects on human health. Conservationists, public health officials, farmworkers and indigenous groups have been calling for a U.S. ban on this DDT-era pesticide for years. Endosulfan is already banned in the European Union, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and other countries.

In news related to the foregoing related news:
Research shows that the benefits of environmental regulations consistently exceed costs, in part because they end up costing far less than both industry and the EPA predict.

When EPA promulgates regulations, industry often expresses concern that the regulations will cause extreme economic hardship. Now this argument is being made regarding EPA regulation of carbon pollution using existing legal authorities like the Clean Air Act. In fact, there is extensive literature showing that the costs of environmental regulations are more than offset by a broad range of economic, public health and jobs-related benefits. Additionally, initial cost estimates are consistently found to be exaggerated.

Economists and researchers who have compared actual costs with initial projections report that regulations generally end up costing far less than the dire predictions from industry and even, as an RFF study shows, below cost projections by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Xerox claims to have saved $10.2 million by asking its employees for green business ideas:

One way to dismiss sustainability and any smidgen of corporate social responsibility is to shout the antiquated argument that we only have a choice between the economy and the environment. Xerox has shown that is not the case. Last year the company announced it was working on carbon neutrality; to that end, in the push to make the company more "green," Xerox encouraged its employees to share ideas on how the organization could become more efficient....

The results from employees’ rethinking: Xerox has saved US$10.2 million this year while it eliminated 2.6 million pounds of waste.
In California, new regulations require reformulation of household cleaning products:

About 2,000 household cleaning products will be reformulated to reduce smog-forming compounds under a new regulation adopted Thursday in California.

The rule will trigger a new, mandatory wave of “green” products, including window cleaners, general purpose cleaning sprays, degreasers, oven cleaners, metal polishes, furniture sprays, heavy-duty hand soaps and spot removers.

Household cleaners, which contain highly reactive solvents known as VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are a substantial source of smog. The new standards will reduce emissions by nearly 7 tons per day, which is the equivalent of removing half a million cars from California’s roads.

The Pentagon will stop shielding certain consultants from disclosure laws:
The Pentagon has dropped its attempt to shield some consultants from public scrutiny and will require all retired admirals and generals it hires under its "senior mentors" program to disclose their employers, earnings and stocks they own.

Under pressure from Congress, the Pentagon had required that only consultants making more than $119,553 per year disclose their finances.

But in a memo Friday, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn said the disclosure rules will apply to all mentors.

Indonesia has created a large shark sanctuary:
A shark sanctuary has been declared around the Raja Ampat islands in Indonesia. Larger than Denmark, the new sanctuary covers 17,760 square miles (46,000 square kilometers) of one of the world's richest marine biodiverse region, the Coral Triangle. Protections not only cover sharks, but dugongs, marine turtles, mobulas, and manta rays as well. In addition, reef bombing and fishing for the aquarium trade are banned.
Researchers have found several new frogs in Colombia:
The newly discovered species include a cryptic beaked toad (Rhinella species), which resembles dead leaves and whose offspring skip the tadpole stage to develop directly into toadlets; an unknown toad with bright red eyes; and a new rocket frog (Silverstoneia species), a type of poison dart frog.
Photo: Robin Moore/iLCP

South Africa is deploying its military to stop rhino poaching:

Rhino poaching keeps taking on such alarming proportions in South Africa that the country's defence force has now been called in to help fight the ruthless killers who are mostly using assault weapons and often other sophisticated equipment to carry out their crime.

The request has come from South African National Parks (SANParks), which has been engaged in its own growing battle to stem rhino poaching in Kruger National Park, the country's flagship reserve that is home to about 10,000 white rhinos and 350 black rhinos.

Researchers in Hong Kong have created a solar air conditioning system for cars:

The system consists of a roof-mounted photovoltaic panel that collects solar energy and stories it in a custom battery supported by an optimized control system. The power collected will then be able to support a stand-alone electric air-conditioner, which can be switched on when the vehicle engine is not running. If the weather is dark, then stored energy can be used to power the system.

Currently the system can only produce enough power to sustain a standalone electric air conditioner, but the researchers are currently working on other projects that can benefit from the system, such as implementing them on the streets of Hong Kong to power shop A/C units and refrigerators.

Cheryl alerts me to these heartening Nunn-Lugar statistics:
The Nunn-Lugar scorecard now totals 7,599 strategic nuclear warheads deactivated, 791 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) destroyed, 498 ICBM silos eliminated, 180 ICBM mobile launchers destroyed, 651 submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) eliminated, 492 SLBM launchers eliminated, 32 nuclear submarines capable of launching ballistic missiles destroyed, 155 bomber eliminated, 906 nuclear air-to-surface missiles (ASMs) destroyed, 194 nuclear test tunnels eliminated, 493 nuclear weapons transport train shipments secured, upgraded security at 24 nuclear weapons storage sites, built and equipped 20 biological monitoring stations, and neutralized 1569.5 metric tons of Russian & Albanian chemical weapons agent. Perhaps most importantly, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus are nuclear weapons free as a result of cooperative efforts under the Nunn-Lugar program. Those countries were the third, fourth and eighth largest nuclear weapons powers in the world.
Apropos of which:
Enough plutonium and uranium to make 775 nuclear weapons has been removed from the BN-350 fast reactor in Kazakhstan, built to breed plutonium for the Soviet Union's nuclear weapons program, and placed in a secure storage facility to keep terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The United States and Kazakhstan worked together to achieve the transfer, which was announced today by U.S. and Kazakh officials at the storage facility in Eastern Kazakhstan.

"Working closely together, we secured, packaged and removed the spent fuel that contains 10 metric tons of highly enriched uranium and three metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium, enough material for 775 nuclear weapons," said Anne Harrington, deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation with the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, NNSA.

Kentucky has canceled plans to build a coal plant:
Thanks to a powerful and growing New Power grassroots movement, a broad alliance of Kentucky activists sent an electrifying message across the nation today: A just transition to a clean energy future, even in the heartland of coal country Kentucky, is possible.

Recognizing the spiraling costs of coal-fired plant construction and more practical energy efficiency and renewable energy options, the East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC) has agreed to halt its once fervent plans to construct two coal-burning power plants in Clark County.

I heartily endorse this event and/or product:

House Democrats are exploiting an embarrassing moment for the GOP earlier this week to highlight the hypocrisy of Republicans' relentless opposition to health care reform.

Four members -- Joe Crowley (NY), Linda Sanchez (CA), Donna Edwards (MD), and Tim Ryan (OH) -- are rounding up signatures for a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Speaker-to-be John Boehner, encouraging them to press their members to refuse their federal health benefits based on the same principles underlying their opposition to health care reform.

Sixteen studies from vegetable locomotion (1975). Eight films by Alexander Kluge. Seven hours of a train ride through Norway. Three abandoned churches. And an unspecified number of photos by Clarence John Laughlin:

Celestial mechanics. Vintage coupons. Calling the time lady. "The picturesque dress of the Newhaven fish-women will not escape the notice of a stranger." Graphic Presentation (via things). Neverends. Molecular animation (via Peacay). Photos by Abelardo Morell. Photos by David Vestal (via wood s lot). And home from above:

Redrawing our borders. Related: John Wesley Powell's watershed maps. The bright lights of the big city. The unified lunar control network. And strange images from the Nottingham Caves Survey:

Here's a cartoon, too:

(Image at top: "The small object featured in this exhibition is the oldest surviving Anglo-American star map. It was made in 1780 by Simeon De Witt, a surveyor for George Washington and the Continental army. The map shows the stars visible from De Witt’s post in New Jersey. Drawing such a map, as De Witt himself later said, fostered an appreciation of 'the ever shifting scenery of the skies and all the gorgeous drapery of heaven.'")


liliannattel said...

It's good to hear about new frogs instead of missing frog species. Also the reduction in nuclear weapons and plutonium. (And I smiled at the suggestion that they GOP ought to refuse health benefits.)

Emily said...

The celestial mechanics pictures are beautiful!

Regarding Republicans: Michael Steele once suggested that they would not get the benefits of Obamacare, and sometimes I think that's not such a bad idea. After all, a Republican suggested it...

Anonymous said...

Holy cow, what a wonderful post!

This will take me more than a week to read through.

Thank you thank you thank you.