Sunday, May 30, 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

Friday Hope Blogging

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:

The American Academy of Pediatrics has rescinded a controversial policy statement raising the idea that doctors in some communities should be able to substitute demands for female genital cutting with a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.

Kansas governor Mark Parkison has restored state funding for family planning:

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.

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.

More musicians are boycotting Arizona:
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.

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.
The world's smallest waterlily has been saved from extinction:

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 has announced a moratorium on logging concessions:
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.
Fenwick's Antpitta. Photo by: ©Fundacion ProAves

Australia is taking legal action against Japan to end whaling in the Southern Ocean:
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:

[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.

An electric car has traveled 623 miles on a single charge:
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.
Also, the Milky Way over Death Valley.

(Image at top: "Bird over Harbour, Sydney" by Sidney Nolan, 1948.)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Open Season

"It's open season on Arizona," says Maggie Gallagher.

She's right, of course. No sooner did the governor legalize racial profiling, and declare that classes on Latino history and culture are verboten, than the Grievance Industry started whining about "racism."

These bullies also complain that the state has some of the worst jail conditions in the country. And houses inmates outdoors, in summer, in makeshift detention camps, after sending them on forced marches through the city streets for the edification of the public. Why don't they pick on someone their own size for a change?

If you need further proof that Arizona is the Jew of liberal fascism, consider this astonishing example of intolerance, which would be roundly condemned by the Usual Suspects if it were applied to the disease-ridden wetbacks who are trying to thwart the Southwest Territorial Imperative:

A former Phoenix Suns basketball star who is now the mayor of Sacramento put the repulsive logic of the Arizona boycott in shocking clarity. "I still have many friends in Arizona, and know the state is not a land filled with hatred. But sometimes Arizonans need a reminder of their foolishness. If we shun them, maybe they will get it."

Since this logic is repulsive, let's take a gander at the good kind:

Why is the president of the United States and his party acting this way? To jack up the Democratic vote.

If "sixty percent of Americans support Arizona," the notion that "bullying Arizona" will "jack up the Democratic vote" seems counterintuitive.

And so does this:

People who were serious about actually reforming immigration would begin by defusing, not inflaming, the racial issues.
Just like Arizona did when it made skin color legal grounds for demanding proof of citizenship, and curtailed "ethnic studies" in state colleges.

Gallagher "cannot speak for all Americans," but she can say that Americans are "pro-rule-of-law" and "believe racial understanding is a two-way street." For example, if Americans are expected to understand minority concerns, minorities should be equally willing to understand that those concerns are wrongheaded at best. Fair's fair!

This is a generous country. Millions of Latinos are not rushing to our borders because we are such a racist society.

If we were racists, see, we wouldn't have this Very Serious Problem along the Mexican border. Since we do, we can harass nonwhite folks to our heart's content, without being accused of anything more shameful than a völkisch sentimentality about national character.

Serious immigration reform must begin by refusing to play the race card, by attempting to conciliate the legitimate concerns about immigration's sometimes serious local costs.

"Playing the race card" is a typical tactic of lazy, dishonest people who would rather demonize white hardworking Americans than acknowledge the glaring defects of minority cultures. Claiming that Mexicans are invading Arizona and murdering its sheriffs, but are being coddled by a Democrat Party that needs to replenish itself by recruiting minorities — just as gays recruit children to keep their unnatural breed alive — is not playing the race card but expressing "concerns."

You can't blame Mexicans for having dark skin or being born in Mexico. But you can blame them for acting like Mexicans, and shattering a national unity that exists only in our minds, and threatening our health and wellbeing simply by daring to exist, and clinging to alien notions even after their cultural superiors have gone to the trouble of correcting them. That's not racism, though; that's common sense.

Which is not to say that racism doesn't exist. But it's something very far removed from the "normal concerns" of "ordinary Americans." Or, if you prefer, the ordinary concerns of normal Americans. For whom Gallagher can't speak, but must, given what's at stake.

Simply put, you're not a racist unless you accept the title as proudly as a normal American would accept a bowling trophy. Being told that you're making a racist argument, when you're really just fretting over the deadly threat of Mexican drug cartels, is an injustice that dwarfs all others, including racism.

"There is no easy answer," as Gallagher notes. And yet, all these pseudo-American grievance-mongers persist in bullying Arizona, simply because the state has arrived at an easy answer with which all sensible people should be able to agree.

The fact is, we're in terrible danger. Why else would we be defending ourselves?

UPDATE: Gallagher complains that a member of a Mexican drug cartel shot a law-enforcement officer while crossing the border. As it happens, seven police officers were shot by right-wing radicals in the past year. The most recent attack was by Jerry Kane, who murdered two officers because he was angry about "being arrested at what he called a 'Nazi checkpoint' near Carrizozo, N.M."

I always knew a white guy would do something like that.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Global Laughingstock

Cliff Kincaid says that if we allow gay people to serve openly in the military, we'll have to allow transgendered people to serve openly in the military. Which means that we'll have to allow men to wear frilly little lacy things when they go forth to fight the Hun. Which means the Hun will laugh at us. Which means they'll win, in some obscure but frightening sense, no matter how many thermobaric shells the Barney Frank Brigade lobs into their subterranean lairs.

And that's not all:

While it is tempting to think that the only damage that would be done would be the turning of our once-feared military into a global laughingstock, there are important national security and health implications to the homosexualization of the Armed Forces.
You think men in dresses is funny, soldier? Well, you'll be laughing out the other side of your piehole when you get splashed with faggot blood and catch Teh AIDS.

[A] profusely bleeding gay soldier could threaten those caring for him on the battlefield, ultimately taking the lives of his fellow soldiers....

A position of opening the military to individuals with a documented history of exposure to deadly diseases, when there is no guaranteed way to screen their infected blood out of the blood supply, is obviously reckless and irresponsible.
It's worse than Kincaid lets on. Suppose a sniper's bullet traveled through a gay man's testicles and then lodged in a straight man's lower intestine? That would give him double AIDS, at the very least!

Being as the MSM is owned and operated by gays and gay-fanciers, they're naturally hiding the Awful Truth about "gay blood on the battlefield." Instead, they insist that gays have a right to serve openly, in dresses, despite being infected with the deadly gay plague of homosexual AIDS.

But the thing is, if DADT were repealed, most straight soldiers would immediately quit the military, leaving the gays in charge of everything. That means we'd need a new draft to replenish it, and that means straight soldiers would be forced to serve under queers, if you get my drift. It brings a whole new meaning to the term "recruitment."
They will demand sexual favors to rise in the ranks, creating even more problems down the road. It is a recipe for national suicide.
Indeed. Consider the sad plight of Israel. And Great Britain. And Australia. And all the other countries that allow gay people to serve openly, and are therefore doomed to die of AIDS any day now.

And think on this: How can Obama claim to be against obesity when he wants to give the US military AIDS by mandating risky practices like "bare-backing," which is a deadly and also dangerous form of gay sex in which one gay man gives another AIDS on purpose (assuming he can find one who doesn't already have it)? What's the point of cutting down on junk food if you're just gonna catch AIDS* and die, thanks to "the Hollywood-backed and well-funded homosexual lobby"?

In summation, we mustn't allow gay veterans to pervert the meaning of their own sacrifice by granting them the rights they fought for. For as a wise man once said, "AIDS AIDS AIDS AIDS AIDS AIDS AIDS AIDS!"


Mastery Over Nature

One of the rules of pop-science journalism is that one must pay lip service to everyday moral concerns before descending into uncritical technophiliac babble. The point is not to achieve balance, but to deploy an army of strawmen that can then be incinerated with Promethean fire.

Thus, The Economist initially seems troubled by the news that scientists have created a synthetic cell. What now of that "divine spark," that "vital essence," in which we all believe, whether we actually believe in it or not? Don't all the world's religions explicitly tell us, somewhere or other, that it's impossible, or at least wrong, to create artificial life of any kind? Doesn't this milestone confirm that we are gods, with all the power and responsibility -- but especially the power -- that entails?

[Creating life] would prove mankind’s mastery over nature in a way more profound than even the detonation of the first atomic bomb.
I'm more likely to see atomic weapons as proof of our subjection to nature. But there's no sense straining at that gnat when we've got this camel to swallow:
Biology is about nurturing and growth.
If you doubt this, consider the myriad plagues and injuries from which this new discovery might protect us.

This is a golden age, almost. But inevitably, some people will accuse scientists of "tampering" with nature, and causing more problems than they're likely to solve.
Such questions are not misplaced—and should give pause even to those, including this newspaper, who normally embrace advances in science with enthusiasm. The new biological science does have the potential to do great harm, as well as good. “Predator” and “disease” are just as much part of the biological vocabulary as “nurturing” and “growth”.
In other words, it's a great-idea-but-possibly-not-and-I'm-not-being-indecisive!
[F]or good or ill it is here. Creating life is no longer the prerogative of gods.
So let's reason with the worst that may befall:
What if a home-brew synthetic-biology club were accidentally to launch a real virus or bacterium? What if a terrorist were to do the same deliberately?
In that case, decimating humanity with deadly diseases would no longer be the prerogative of gods! We'd be capable of...of...destroying ourselves! Who ever dreamed that things would come to this?

Luckily, there's a solution, and it has to do with Free Markets and the Wisdom of Crowds:
Thoughtful observers of synthetic biology favour a different approach: openness. This avoids shutting out the good in a belated attempt to prevent the bad. Knowledge cannot be unlearned, so the best way to oppose the villains is to have lots of heroes on your side. Then, when a problem arises, an answer can be found quickly.
It's hard to single out the silliest claim in this paragraph, but I'm going to go with the assertion that "knowledge cannot be unlearned." This entire article is a testament to our ability to unlearn, from its prattle about "mankind's mastery over nature," to its cockeyed optimism about the "openness" favored by "thoughtful observers," to its astonishing assumption that "when a problem arises, an answer can be found quickly."

All this philosophical maundering amounts to a means of sounding serious while avoiding any serious discussion of the political and economic contexts in which this research actually takes place. The moral issues here were old news in the sixteenth century, and The Economist simplifies them to the point of banality by focusing almost exclusively on the idea that there's some clear limit beyond which human science must not go (which wasn't self-evident even in more orthodox ages than ours).

The interesting question is not whether synthetic biology amounts to "playing God," but who gets to define terms like "heroes" and "good," which The Economist throws around like confetti on New Year's Eve.
Encourage the good to outwit the bad and, with luck, you keep Nemesis at bay.
"Luck," in this context, shouldn't be confused with mere chance; it's more like the rain that follows the plow. Or a piñata that will shower candy on you if you keep swinging blindly at it with a stick.

What disturbs me isn't the creation of artificial organisms per se, but this article's assumption that "we" can easily distinguish heroes from villains, good uses from bad ones, and unforeseen accidents from predictable disasters. The problem, as always, isn't what we know how to do; it's who we are.

UPDATE: John Horgan addresses other aspects of the hype surrounding this research.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The New Groups

Elena Kagan is — let's face it — a Jew. Georgie Anne Geyer ponders what this means to you and me and the man in the next street:

[S]hould she be approved, it will mark the first time in history that no Protestant has been a member of the supreme judicial body of the land.

The court would have six Catholics and three Jews, and what a change that would be for the country founded on a "Protestant ethic."
"Protestant" is Geyer's shorthand for "the Eastern Establishment," which is her shorthand for wealthy and well-mannered white people who dwell "in polished and unostentatious enclaves, in New York, Newport and Palm Beach," just as the Founders intended.

See, the Founders believed that "the interest of their class...was the interest of the nation." And they were right, because as the Eastern Establishment flourished, so too did the nation, as evidenced by the flourishing of the Eastern Establishment.

This process culminated in the election of George H.W. Bush, who was the Ben Hancock of our time:
George H.W. Bush was the last president of the Eastern Protestant Establishment, and there is little question that the values that informed him from that heritage led to his becoming such a great, balanced and successful president.
Now we're preparing to shoehorn yet another Jew into the SCOTUS, and the courtly era of Bush the First seems very far away indeed. As Geyer says, "the Americans who gave us affirmative action now may effectively need affirmative action programs for themselves." Pobrecitos!
Soon, one can imagine a new old movie being made of "the Protestants," sort of like an American Western where the song is over but the memory lingers on.
Yes, it's just like whatever that means!

No, wait. On second thought, it's more like whatever this means:
Or, to lift the entire scenario to a far (far!) higher and certainly more elevated level, one might remember Thomas Mann's great novel, "Buddenbrooks," the iconic story of the decline of a Northern German industrial family, which travels the famous literary route from the first family days of the military, to the second of the commercial class, to the final days when the last generation lives only in and for the theater.
Mayhap. On the other hand, there's a part in Treasure Island where Jim hides in a barrel. So who's to say?

Anyhoo, the Protestants have labored mightily to ensure that American society would not be closed and elitist. This was a noble and generous idea, though not, perhaps, an entirely wise one.

It's not that Geyer dislikes Jews, or anyone else. It's just that she tends to prefer the Eastern Protestant Establishment, like all thoughtful people who appreciate Civilization. It's nothing personal, though: Ethnic arrivistes like Kagan may seem vulgar and contentious and ill-bred, "at least compared to the old establishment with its fine manners. But that is simply natural, for the new groups, no matter their talents, have no common faith, principles and duties at their core."

One must be tolerant, within reason, no matter how culturally and spiritually defective one's inferiors may be. This, too, is part of the Protestant legacy.

Speaking of which, the Protestants really are great, aren't they? I mean, seriously. They're just really, really, really...great.
The form that America took from this remarkable group of people is the form that every progressive country in the world must start with, as it tries to develop. This is why communism gave way to social democracy and why Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, Tunisia, and even monarchical countries like Oman and Bahrain are essentially involved in the original Protestant thesis.
And what is "the original Protestant thesis," exactly? Oh, you know...good manners, noblesse oblige, sexual discretion, summering in Kennebunkport, the Five solas, hostility to the Welfare State...stuff like that. You know it when you see it, basically.

Be sure to turn in next week, when Geyer laments that baseball has become much (much!) less gracious and civilized since Kenesaw M. Landis died.

UPDATE: I edited this post to remove a couple of jokes that, on reflection, weren't very funny.

De Rerum Natura

The Washington Times hammers yet another final nail into Algore's piano-sized coffin:

The alarmists must imagine that 50 years before the birth of Christ, men like Julius Caesar spent their summers strolling the streets of Rome wearing sweaters to guard against catching a chill - instead of abandoning the sweltering capital in favor of temperate seaside villas. A study published in the March 8 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science casts further doubt on the warmist premise by concluding that the sun beat down more harshly on the Caesars than it did on anyone else in the past 2,000 years.
Not only that, but Lucretius was whining about hot weather centuries ago!
The following easily could be a passage from [Gore's] book "Earth in the Balance" describing the consequence of failure to act on climate change: "Either the scorching sun burns up your fields, or sudden rains or frosts destroy your harvests, or a violent wind carries away all before it." Inconveniently for Mr. Gore, the Roman poet Lucretius expressed those sentiments around 50 B.C. That's because weather back then was just as hot - or hotter - and as extreme as it is today.
See what they did there? The Goracle's movie had the word "inconvenient" in its title, but now it turns out that he's the one who has to face the inconvenient truth that Lucretius' description of extreme weather sounds just like his, but predates it. Which means we can arguably add plagiarism to his list of crimes. Sux2bu, fatty!
Other studies from around the world confirm the existence of Roman and Medieval warming periods, where no source of "greenhouse gases" existed aside from the horses and cows of the time.
I suppose the warmistas think Roman warming was caused by Nero driving an SUV, bwahaha! In fact, the warming was natural, which means that the same natural mechanisms must be at work right now, exclusively, despite any and all evidence to the contrary. And since the term "greenhouse gases" appears in scare quotes, there's no reason to assume that this 100%-natural warming could be exacerbated or accelerated by modern GHG emissions, since the climate is not particularly sensitive, as demonstrated by the fact that it sometimes changes abruptly in ways that can be devastating to human societies.

In short, it's safe to say that the AGW religion has been debunked once and for all by William Patterson et al, regardless of what alarmists like William Patterson may think.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

Friday Hope Blogging

A researcher at University of Colorado suggests that increased immigration may be associated with a reduction in violent crime:

During the 1990s, immigration reached record highs and crime rates fell more precipitously than at any time in U.S. history. And cities with the largest increases in immigration between 1990 and 2000 experienced the largest decreases in rates of homicide and robbery, a University of Colorado at Boulder researcher has found.

The Los Angeles City Council is boycotting Arizona.

The City Council voted Wednesday to boycott Arizona businesses, making Los Angeles the largest city to take such action to protest the state's tough new law targeting illegal immigration.

And so are certain entertainers:

Rap veterans Cypress Hill have cancelled an upcoming concert in Arizona in protest of a new state immigration law....

The new ruling has infuriated a string of stars including Black Eyed Peas frontman, and Cypress Hill have pledged their support to immigrants by scrapping their planned gig in Tucson on May 21st.

Phoenix allegedly stands to lose about $90 million due to canceled conventions and other events:
Phoenix may be on the verge of losing hotel and convention center business worth about $90 million over the next five years because of fallout from Arizona's new immigration law, a top city official said....

The canceled events include the oldest African American Greek-lettered fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., which was supposed hold a July meeting at the Sheraton. The fraternity's annual convention was expected to draw an estimated 5,000 attendees and as many as 10,000 visitors in July. Organizers will now hold that event in Las Vegas.

Conservative evangelical leaders are also criticizing Arizona:
They're calling the Arizona law misguided and are attempting to use its passage to push for federal immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

The group, which includes influential political activists such as Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention's public policy wing, and Mathew Staver, dean of the Liberty University School of Law, will soon begin lobbying Republican leaders in Washington to support comprehensive immigration reform under President Obama.

Incidentally, it seems that Arizona State Senate Majority leader Chuck Gray follows a high-profile white supremacist on Twitter.

Don Black is a Florida-based white supremacist who is deemed so dangerous he's banned from the UK for inciting hatred. Arizona State Senate Majority leader Chuck Gray—a proponent of the recent immigration bill—follows him on Twitter.

StormfrontWPWW (White Pride Worldwide) is the Twitter account for Stormfront, a racist organization that is the latest project of uber-racist Stephen Donald Black, better known as Don Black. He was a Grand Wizard in the KKK and a member of the American Nazi Party.
The Tennessee House has blocked an English-only driver's license bill:

Yesterday, a Tennessee House subcommittee effectively stopped a bill that would have limited the languages available to a person taking their driver’s license test.

The bill would have allowed residents who show proof of legal residency the option of taking the test in one of four languages (English, Spanish, Korean or Japanese). But those who couldn’t show their papers would be forced to take the test in English.

Hawaii has passed a law that allows state officials to ignore birthers:
It's now legal for Hawaii to brush off so-called birthers and any others who bug the state about President Barack Obama's birth certificate.

Gov. Linda Lingle signed into law Wednesday a bill allowing the state to ignore repeated requests for Obama's birth certificate....

An Australian court has ruled that a citizen who was tortured at Guantanamo has the right to sue the Australian government:

Mr Habib says he was subjected to sleep deprivation, being burnt, electrocution and injections of drugs and that Australian officials were complicit in - and sometimes present at - the sessions.

Canberra had asked for the case to be thrown out, saying Australia could not rule on the actions of US officials.

But the Federal Court said torture "offends the ideal of a common humanity" and that Australia's parliament had "declared it to be a crime wherever outside Australia it is committed".

Timor-Leste has passed its first domestic violence law:
Under the new law, "Police will be bound to investigate domestic violence crimes and victims will, under law, have access to emergency medical help, shelter, psycho-social and legal support services," Pornchai Suchitta of the UN Population Fund told IRIN. The law also requires education on domestic violence to be included in school curricula and ensures that victims, not their fathers, receive monetary fines from perpetrators.
Cameroon has agreed to stop exporting protected hardwoods:
One of Africa's largest exporters of tropical hardwoods, Cameroon, has announced today a trade agreement with the European Union (EU) to rid all illegal wood from its supply chain to the EU and worldwide. Cameroon signed a legally-binding Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) that will cover all wood products produced in Cameroon.
Philips has released the first 60w LED bulb:

The EnduraLED lamp will use only 12 watts, last 25 times longer, and deliver up to eighty percent savings on energy costs and avoided maintenance costs. However, the new bulb will produce a light level of 806 lumens, similar to the 60 watt incandescent. To achieve this efficiency, it uses an innovative design and a new technology known as remote phosphor technology, developed by Philips researchers in The Netherlands.

New York has been mapped with lasers in order to identify ideal locations for solar panels:
Last month a low-flying airplane airplane equipped with a laser embarked upon two weeks of stealth missions over New York City. Not your average covert operation, these 9 six-hour flights were made in the name of green — as part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC program, the flight crew was quietly making a 3D solar map of the entire city....

New York will also use their solar map to replace existing flood maps — those currently being used are from the 1980’s and are quite outdated. Information from the flights will be made public so NYC residents can see if their buildings are well suited for solar panels.
Ten years after the Edwards Dam was removed, Maine's Kennebec River is thriving:
[M]ore than two million alewives returned to the Kennebec, the largest migration of its kind on the eastern seaboard. The entire web of life, from eagles to osprey to black bears, have benefited from the free-flowing river. Water quality classifications have been upgraded, and mayflies and stoneflies, rarely seen in samples before the removal of Edwards, have dramatically increased in number.
The world's oldest beehives have been found in a Scottish chapel:
Located in the medieval Scottish Rosslyn Chapel, which dates back to 1446, two ancient hives have been found, skillfully carved in the stone work under the roof's peak. They are thought to be the first man-made stone hives ever found....

The only clues to the hives' existence were flowers intricately carved into the pinnacles -- it is charming that there were holes through which the bees could enter and exit. These were visible from the outside....

Since the hive was so high above the ground, it is clear that no one would be able to reach it to get the honey. It is thought that the ancient stone masons who built the chapel simply wanted to provide a safe location for a wild honeybee hive, protected from bad weather.

Peter Sinclair is competing for a grant that will fund his popular "Climate Crock of the Week" video series. Personally, I think he deserves the prize just for his brilliant two-part feature on Lord Monckton. You can click here to vote for him.

Floral bee nests. Photos by Robert Kinmont. A survey of canyon striations. Abandoned locomotives. Some thoughts on forams and oils. A tour of junk drawers and medicine cabinets (via things). And an overview of photographic motion studies.

The Kimbangist Symphony Orchestra. Virtual moonwalking. Time-lapse footage of Eyjafjallajökull (I strongly advise you to turn the sound off). Photographic vans of the 19th century. Herschel Crater, on Mimas. Photos by Charles Weever Cushman. And via wood s lot, photos by Francis L. Cooper.

The Bioscope informs me that UCLA has posted 11 animated films from the silent era, several of which are new to me, and one of which — The Wandering Toy, from 1928 — is a revelation. (I suspect that a reader who's particularly dear to me will agree.) The same post refers me to an excellent silent-film forum called Nitrateville; those who like this sort of thing will find that et cetera and so forth. Furthermore: Al-Rihla Images. The History of Advertising Trust's Ghostsigns Archive. The Electric Brae. Illustrations from the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive. Trade cards of the Smith and Anthony Stove Co. And 421 images from the Tissandier Collection.

All this, and a movie, too.

(Photo at top: "Lamp Posts on Miami Beach Pier" by Charles Weever Cushman, 1939.)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Anxieties of Middle America

As the United States descends further into nativist paranoia, a few brave souls like Walter Rodgers dare to ask the really hard questions. Like, for instance, are Teabaggers racists?

The answer is no, because racism has effectively been redefined as hating people for no good reason. If you hate someone for having dark skin or slanted eyes, that's fairly strong evidence of racism (unless you've been drinking). But if you hate someone because he's (probably) a lazy, shiftless welfare cheat, or an "illegal" who's (probably) planting anchor babies like some Reconquista version of Johnny Appleseed, you're simply voicing middleclass concerns, and your tirades against "rapist animals" from "Third World cesspools" will be politely overlooked by our defenders of Civil Discourse.

Thus, Rodgers says that calling Teabaggers racists is "a neo-McCarthy tactic, which stifles what should be a healthy debate about serious issues – such as federal debt."

Sure. Anyone can see that the reason we're not having "a healthy debate" about an issue most Teabaggers ignored when Bush was president is 'cause leftist neo-McCarthyites like me keep calling them racists. Once we stop trying to stifle these thoughtful people by calling attention to the disturbing aspects of their worldview, we can have a free and frank discussion about the need to deport all illegals, mine the border, end all social spending, nuke Iran, pull out of the UN, cure faggots with electricity, hang Michael Mann to a tree, and demand proof of citizenship from anyone darker than Marco Rubio.

Racism is so terrible, and so unjust, and so rare, that to accuse a white person of it is well-nigh unforgivable. Granted, there is a racial component to the Tea Parties, but it's not a matter of racism so much as...well, self-preservation.

The dominant “racial” factor in the tea party movement isn’t antiblack bigotry but whites’ fear of their own diminishing political power.
See, it's not that they hate darkies; they just want to be in charge of them, rather than vice versa. Have a little sympathy! They're getting on in years, some of them, and their world is changing, sort of, and their natural rights are being usurped, in a sense, by a bunch of goddamn wogs and spics and sand niggers who don't even believe in customer service anymore.
Ask any Anglo visiting South Texas who has been ignored and refused service because he does not speak Spanish.
Actually, they treat you that way even if you're bilingual. Last time I was down in Del Rio, I pulled up to the hotel and there was a Mexican bellhop leaning against the wall. So I waved a dollar bill at him and said, "Me habla mucho suitcases, por favor! You carry them en casa, mucho pronto, I give you dolor!"

He just stared at me, so I said it again, louder and slower. He shook his head and walked away. Turned out he was the chief of police. Still, would it have killed him to be polite?

The point is, you shouldn't judge a nativist zealot until you've walked a mile in his moccasins. Imagine what it's like for the average Teabagger to call a business and hear a recording that says "Press 1 for English." Or to see McDonalds serving bizarre ethnic specialities like "fajitas." Or to drive on the freeway and see exit signs for El Paso or San Diego or Santa Fe or Casa Grande. It'd be like waking up in a foreign country full of horrible people, hundreds of times a day!

These patriots may get a bit overexcited from time to time...but honestly, who among us can gaze dispassionately upon the Decline of the West? A perpetual state of incandescent rage is a perfectly natural response to the "diminishing political power" of the White Race Real Americans. Calling it "racism" is simply a means of pathologizing the legitimate racial anxieties that made this country great.

Besides, as Rodgers notes, people used to hate the Irish, too. Doesn't that put everything in perspective, when you think about it? It's not that all Mexicans are bad people, necessarily. It's just that we have too many of them and they don't know how to act and their culture is dysfunctional and they spread disease and they're ruining everything, just like the Jews and the Irish and the Chinese before them.

Is that racism? Only to the sort of PC elitist who defines racism as some kind of...of...prejudice against people whom one perceives as being culturally or genetically inferior. (In reality, racism is a political ideology that had all but died out by the late sixties, and persists mainly among the Ku Klux Klan, La Raza and the Democrat Party.)

Teabaggers just don't trust Obama, for some reason. It's really that simple.
If Obama doesn’t address the anxieties of Middle America – from taxes to immigration – he may find that the rest of the silent majority is shouting by Election Day.
So he needs to lower taxes on the middle class, as he's already done, and then seal the borders, as every president before him has failed to do. And he has to do this without raising the federal debt, or diminishing white political power, or electing ugly lesbians to the SCOTUS, or doing anything else that might trigger panic attacks among conspiracy-addled rageaholics who believe that anti-discrimination laws are racist against whites. Otherwise, the Teabaggers may decide not to vote for him in 2012, even if he shows them his long-form birth certificate!

It's no more than we'd demand from any other Muslim Marxist pseudo-president who was born in Kenya and hates hardworking Christian white people. So let's have no more talk of "racism," please. It's unseemly.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fulfillment and Enjoyment

David French explains how he went from being a tepid supporter of same-sex marriage to a staunch defender of traditional marriage. He feels that his intellectual journey is instructive. He's right.

Here's why he supported it (or at least, didn't oppose it quite as much as he does now):

I have a strong libertarian streak and was completely fed up with the cavalier way in which the Christian community treated its own marriage vows.
You'd think that a man with a "strong libertarian streak" would recognize that other people's marriage vows are none of his fucking business, whether they call themselves Christians or not. At least, that's what you'd think if you failed to remember that for most conservatives, the term "libertarian" is as superficial and ephemeral as a rub-on tattoo.

The problem, it turns out, was not that people weren't taking marriage vows seriously enough, but that the State was letting them get away with it. Like many people who have an unhealthy fascination with the intimate lives of strangers, French justified his preoccupations by getting sentimental about children:
I initially approached the marriage question from a fundamentally incorrect starting position — implicitly adopting the argument that marriage exists for the benefit of adults, for their fulfillment and enjoyment. This is a fundamentally selfish view of marriage (I’m getting married to fulfill me). Instead, marriage is the fundamental building block of the family, the cultural cornerstone of a society, and it exists primarily for the benefit not of adults but of children.
So selfishness may not be a virtue, after all? Maybe French's libertarian streak isn't as strong as he thinks.

As for me, I'm a radical post-postmodern Islamosocialist who hates truth and beauty, so naturally I think marriages that provide adults with fulfillment and enjoyment tend to be healthier for children than ones that are undertaken as a grim duty.

We tolerate out-of-wedlock births, French says, in order "to avoid 'stigmatizing'...the adult." This is a serious error on our part. If we could somehow find the courage to stigmatize the adult — by which I assume he means "the woman" — we could shame these goddamn sluts into marriage by threatening to stigmatize their children as bastards. It worked pretty well in Victorian fiction, so why wouldn't it work even better now that we've got the Internets?
We consented to no-fault divorce and increases in single parenting in part because there was “no proof” that it was bad for us.
In part, maybe. But mostly, "we" consented to it because the existing divorce laws were stupid, and blatantly misogynist, and often obliged people to commit perjury or worse. Afterward, there were more single parents not because the law encouraged it, but because the law stopped compelling people to live together against their will. It's a subtle distinction, granted, but a libertarian like French ought to be able to appreciate it all the same.

French cites studies showing that kids tend to be happier when their parents are in a committed relationship. You'd think this might be an argument for legalizing same-sex marriage. But he actually uses heterosexual divorce as an argument against legalization:
[T]here’s no proof that same-sex parenting harms kids. It’s a recent phenomenon, and the data just isn’t in. Yet we know that the traditional family is good for kids. We know that every other long-term family permutation has proven bad for kids. How can we logically justify taking yet another risk with our cornerstone cultural institution?
French knows that he can't outlaw same-sex relationships, so he attempts to satisfy the urge by consigning the children of gay couples to a sort of legal limbo, on the grounds that their parents must remain second-class citizens for the good of the state. In the topsy-turvy world of social conservatism, this is known as "protecting the innocent."

Since he's blind to virtually every real-world implication of his ideology, it's no surprise that French finds it "relatively simple" to reverse our moral decline.
Hold the line on same-sex marriage, try to roll back the pernicious, adult-worshipping institution of no-fault divorce through innovations like covenant marriage, and — crucially — model the right behavior by denying self and serving others in your own life and marriage.
I don't believe it's reasonable to call covenant marriage an "innovation." Nor do I believe Christians will be any less "cavalier" about such vows than they were back when French supported gay marriage.

More to the point, it makes no sense to do away with no-fault divorce on the grounds that some married people have children, even if you're deranged enough to believe that forcing parents to stay married benefits children.

Unless French's aim is not to protect children, but to keep women in line. But what are the odds of that?

The larger problem with legalizing same-sex marriage is that treating it as a constitutional right would deny bigots their constitutional right to deny constitutional rights to people they despise. This is a slippery slope indeed: if the courts keep protecting gay rights, gay rights will eventually be protected.

Worse yet, this could threaten "the tax exemptions of every biblically orthodox church in America"!

Won't somebody please think of the children?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Landscape of Death

The Globe and Mail interviews Camille Paglia on the vital issues of the day, and discovers that — wait for it, now — modern academia is besotted with multiculturalism.

Not that there's anything wrong with other cultures per se; they're perfectly alright in their place, if you get my drift. But when you start portraying Caribbean or African authors as "important," where does that leave Shakespeare? Where does that leave real art, as defined for all eternity by middlebrow snobbery the illustrious dead?

See, when colleges validate the artistic pretensions of minorities and women and so forth, it can lead to the creation of "institutional fiefdoms." It'd be much better to have a single fiefdom, presided over by the Immortals of Art, whose irrevocable judgments on the modern scene will be made known to us by Camille Paglia.

Educators need to take "the long view." And they need to direct it uncritically toward an Official Past. Only then will they see that the artistic productions of women fade into nothingness when compared to the genius of Michelangelo. Why did he get to paint the Sistine Chapel, instead of some chick? Because he was way better than any of the bitches who applied for the job, duh.

Again, this is not to imply that "world culture" has no value. For instance, Hollywood and jazz are wonderful. But when you start making grand claims for the scribblings of some goddamn wog...well, it's very dangerous, obviously, because you're going against decades or even centuries of settled belief and what if you turn out to be wrong? What if your experience of art becomes mired in subjectivity, instead of being a ritualized expression of forced belief, as God intended?

You might think that some "ethnic" novel is powerful or meaningful or what have you...but a hundred years from now, will someone like Paglia be treating it as a spiritual pinnacle that no modern writer can challenge? If not, you'll have to admit you were wrong. Great art lasts, and in doing so it brutally limits human possibilities. That's how you tell it from mere trash.

Although she was "the first to advocate the Web," Paglia is troubled by its tendency to misinform: It can be hard to tell "whether something is solid, dubious, or whether it’s a joke or a scam." (Books are different, because the solid ones bear tokens of authenticity, like a blurb from Harold Bloom on the back cover.)

Which brings us inevitably to global warming. Previously, the sciences were a unified whole, thanks to the groundbreaking work of Aristotle, whose scientific accomplishments no woman has ever matched. But in the intervening years, thanks to feminism and postmodernism, they've splintered into institutional fiefdoms that don't communicate with each other. And this is the result:

This whole thing about global warming – I am absolutely incredulous at the gullibility of people. What is this hysteria over drowning polar bears? And finally I realized, people don’t know polar bears can swim!
See how it helps to take an interdisciplinary approach? Speaking of which, what is this hysteria over the Gulf Coast oil spill? Has no one noticed that birds can fly and fish can swim? If they choose to wallow in oil, how is that BP's fault? Whatever happened to personal responsibility?

People nowadays are too emotional, too melodramatic. It's one thing to call the humanities "a landscape of death" because you don't like Foucault. But to worry about polar bears, even though they're very nearly capable of swimming from Kotlik to Unalakleet? That's just silly. If people studied geology, as Paglia recommends, they'd take a much more sensible view of the matter.

At the risk of repeating myself, I'll leave you with this quote from Sinclair Lewis:
The men leaned back on their heels, put their hands in their trouser-pockets, and proclaimed their views with the booming profundity of a prosperous male repeating a thoroughly hackneyed statement about a matter of which he knows nothing whatever.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Friday, May 07, 2010

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

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.)