Friday, December 03, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

It's another busy week for yours truly, but I'm going to see how many stories I can get listed in the next hour or two. As always, you're welcome — if not obliged — to add links of your own in comments.

Sixty-nine women were elected to the Afghan parliament:

Women candidates in particular faced threats, violence, and intimidation from insurgents during this parliamentary election, which was the fourth election since the Taliban's fall. The Independent Election Commission deemed nearly one quarter of the ballots invalid and received nearly 5,000 complaints about election irregularities.

Nevertheless, Fazel Ahmad Manawi, Chairman of the Independent Election Commission, clarified, "With all the shortcomings, it was a major success for us, the Afghan government, people of Afghanistan and our international friends."
The U.S. Senate has passed a bill against child marriage:

This morning, the U.S. Senate passed the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act, an important bill which would help change the fact that every day girls as young as eight or nine are forced to marry men who are often decades older....

It might seem like passing this bill would be a no-brainer, but folks have actually been working really hard in DC for six years just to get this thing passed. It’s a big day for women’s rights groups on the Hill, and I congratulate them on this big win.

The Illinois senate has passed a civil union bill:

Increased rights include the right to inherit, the right to visit partners in a hospital, the ability to share a room in a nursing home and the power to make end-of-life decisions for a partner.

Some people were against it, of course. Here's an entertaining response to them from Sen. Ricky Hendon (via Truth Wins Out).

NASA has discovered a new life form in Mono Lake:

A team of NASA scientists studying bacteria in Mono Lake in California have discovered a microorganism that substitutes arsenic — a chemical that is toxic to almost all living organisms — for all parts of a cell that in every other life form are built from phosphate. Not only has this discovery made it necessary to re-edit every science textbook in use, but researchers say it could revolutionize green energy and toxic waste cleanup.

It's interesting news, definitely, but the description is a bit overwrought for my tastes. Cheryl has a more...measured response.

This is a pretty amazing statistic, if true:
Just 15 of the worlds largest ships pump out as much pollution as every car on earth (760 million cars). The reason is that these ships burn enormous amounts of very very dirty fuel.
And this is a pretty good idea regardless:
[The] EPA is setting up a 230 mile buffer zone around the US, with Canada expected to follow, that would keep this pollution farther out to sea....

The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates the buffer zone, which could be in place by next year, will save more than 8,000 lives a year with new air quality standards cutting sulfur in fuel by 98%, particulate matter by 85% and nitrogen oxide emissions by 80%.
Apropos of which, the world's largest solar-powered boat has crossed the Atlantic.
The vessel is completely fuelled by renewable energy, with its solar cells having a 22% efficiency rate. These are the highest rated cells available for purchase on the market, and the cells cover over 500 square meters of the ship. The solar cells are able to power two electric motors which are found in the hull, giving the ship at a top speed of 14 knots. Most notably, the large surface area of solar cells means that the catamaran can travel for up to three full days, even without direct sunlight – any excess energy is stored in a state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery.
In California, a rare plant has received habitat protection.
[T]he U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today designated 783 acres of critical habitat for the endangered San Diego ambrosia, a plant that only grows in small parts of California and Mexico. Critical habitat is essential for recovery of this rare plant, whose numbers have declined drastically from more than 50 populations to just 18. This final designation includes three general areas in the western part of Riverside County, covering 189 acres, and four general areas, covering 594 acres, in San Diego County.

“With protection of its habitat, the San Diego ambrosia now has a chance at survival,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity.
So has a threatened fish:
Responding to a lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today designated additional critical habitat for the federally threatened Santa Ana sucker, a fish that lives only in Southern California. Today’s revised designation includes 9,331 acres of critical habitat, up from 8,305 acres in the previous designation. Importantly, this new designation includes stretches of the Santa Ana River and its tributaries that are currently occupied by the fish but had been removed from the previous flawed designation.
Polar bears won some tentative habitat protections as well:
More than 187,000 square miles (approximately 120 million acres) along the north coast of Alaska were designated today as “critical habitat” for the polar bear as a result of a partial settlement in an ongoing lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Greenpeace against the Department of the Interior. This designation under the Endangered Species Act is intended to safeguard those coastal lands and waters under U.S. jurisdiction that are vital to the polar bears’ survival and recovery.
In Tennessee, Cracker Barrel restaurants are installing charging stations for electric cars:
Cracker Barrel is going to install electric vehicle charging stations at 24 of its restaurants along three Tennessee freeways. Twelve of them will be Blink chargers that can get a Chevy Volt from dead to 80 percent in 20 minutes.
I can't wait for David Brooks to explain What It All Means.

The rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has slowed dramatically:
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell to the lowest rate on record, putting Brazil well on track to meet its targets for reducing rainforest destruction.

Analysis of satellite imagery by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) shows that 6,450 square kilometers of rainforest were cleared in the Amazon in the 12 months ended July 31, 2010, a 14 percent drop from the year earlier period.
In related news:
The burgeoning global program REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) could do more than mitigate climate change, according to a new study in Conservation Letters by scientists with Conservation International (CI). Analyzing a sample of 2,500 forest animals, including mammals, birds and amphibians, researchers found that REDD+ could reduce the rate of extinction among these species by 46-82% over five years. The wide range in the study's findings depends on the amount of funds devoted to REDD+: more funds means greater forest preservation and, thereby, less extinction.
The World Wildlife Fund has created a new digital file format that can't be printed:
Drop by Save as WWF, Save a Tree to download software that will add a "Save as WWF" option to your print menu. Any WWFs you create can be opened by programs that open PDFs—but can't be printed.

Will you really save a tree every time you use this new file format? Obviously not. But the campaign does provide an effective reminder that a lot of paper gets wasted out of plain old carelessness.

Also: Impossibly beautiful antique radio tuning dials (via Coudal). Earth as art. A close-up view of Prunella vulgaris. Photos by Dirk Kirchner. And Phobos near the limb of Mars:

Zero to 10 in 85 seconds. Vintage Japanese political posters. A Portrait of LA. Antique circles (via Peacay). And Le Grand Blanc.

I think we have time for a movie, as well:

(Illustration at top: "vintage 19th c. marbled paper, antique straight pattern" via BibliOdyssey.)


TaraDharma said...

plenty to chew on, here! It'll take me most of the morning and a few more cups of coffee --- deep bows to you!

Love the video of the legislator -- that's what I hate about politics as well: the HYPOCRISY!

Phila said...

Glad to be of service!

peacay said...

Thanks squire. There's some fine tendrils of hope binding this dispatch together. I may have to move to Illinois just to vote for Sen. Hendon.

Marcellina said...

Here's something: IKEA just gave all it's U.S. employees bicycles for the holidays.