Friday, February 04, 2011

Friday Hope Blogging

We'll start this week's edition with some remarks by Zach Wahls, who spoke before the Iowa House of Representatives on the soul-annihilating horror of being raised by lesbians:

I scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. I’m actually an Eagle Scout. I own and operate my own small business. And if I was your son, Mr. Chairman, I believe I’d make you very proud....

My family really isn’t so different from yours. After all, your family doesn’t derive its sense of worth from being told by the state, ‘You're married – congratulations.’ No, the sense of family comes from the commitment we make to each other, to work through the hard times so we can enjoy the good ones. It comes from the love that binds us – that’s what makes a family. So what you’re voting here isn’t to change us. It’s not to change our families, it’s to change how the law views us, how the law treats us…So will this vote affect my family? Would it affect yours?

A high school in Pennsylvania has stopped segregating its classrooms:
McCaskey East High School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania has abandoned its pilot "mentoring" program that that separated students by race and gender in their homeroom classrooms following much controversy and negative media attention.

Pedro Rivera, the superintendent, continues to defend the segregation, saying, "The educators was to serve students. They identified a need and were innovative and forward-thinking around how they were going to provide a quality education to kids here at the high school." However, the Lancaster school district rescinded the pilot program after "blistering" criticism of the blatant segregation and racial stereotyping. Unfortunately, few pointed out the sex stereotyping and segregation, which is a violation of Title IX.
Several anti-abortion bills were defeated in the Virginia Senate:

Among those defeated were bills to extend constitutional rights to unborn children (SB1378 and 1207 ); to require an ultrasound before a woman has an abortion (SB1435 ); to make it a crime to force a woman to terminate a pregnancy (SB1217 ); and to prohibit coverage of abortions by medical insurance exchanges set up to comply with the federal health care law except in cases of rape or health risks for women (SB1202 ).

Each of the measures was killed largely on a party line vote by the committee, which is composed of 10 Democrats and five Republicans.

The island of Sark has been designated as a dark-sky community:

Dark-sky communities are places with very little to no light pollution. As a result, the stars are far easier to see and more fun to look at. According to a buzzy article from, Sark is just 4.5 square miles and has "no public street lighting, no paved roads, and no cars." In other words, save for the occasional flashlight or matchstick, there aren't a lot of things to interfere with the nighttime display, which includes "meteors streaking overhead and countless stars on display"....

You can learn more about the dark-sky movement at the IDA's official site.

Shell has once again postponed its plans to drill off the coast of ANWR:

“The polar bear and other wildlife of Alaska’s Arctic, as well as the local communities that depend upon a healthy ocean, were granted a well-deserved reprieve today,” said Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Now, the Department of the Interior needs to turn that short-term reprieve into permanent protection of America’s Arctic.”

Today’s announcement marks the third time that Shell’s plans to drill in the Beaufort Sea have been put on hold in recent years. Drilling in 2007 and subsequent years was stopped by a federal court, which overturned the Interior Department’s approval of Shell’s exploration plan due to poor environmental review. Plans to drill in 2010 were suspended by Interior following the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Shell’s 2011 plan were put in doubt by an Environmental Protection Agency appeals-board decision overturning a necessary air permit, as well as the recent designation of polar bear critical habitat in the drilling area.

The population of Mexican gray wolves is growing:
Fifty Mexican gray wolves, including two breeding pairs, were counted in the wilds of New Mexico and Arizona at the end of 2010, according to a new census conducted by federal and state agencies. The 50 wolves are eight more than the 42 wolves found a year ago, representing the first increase in numbers in four years.
In related news:
Plaintiffs in a lawsuit that asked the federal government to remove endangered Mexican gray wolves from the wild in New Mexico have now filed a motion seeking voluntary dismissal of their suit without prejudice, meaning that they could refile a similar suit later. This is the third unsuccessful suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service attempting to undermine the Mexican wolf recovery program. In this case, the plaintiffs are Catron and Otero counties, two livestock-industry associations and three ranching operations with grazing permits in the Gila National Forest.

“This lawsuit was entirely without merit; the plaintiffs’ motion to dismiss their own suit suggests they realize neither the law nor the facts are on their side,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, which intervened in the lawsuit in support of the government together with Defenders of Wildlife. “With only a few dozen Mexican wolves struggling to survive in the wild, a new rash of federal trapping and shooting would push this unique animal even closer to extinction.”

A federal judge has ordered the BLM to rework plans for ORV use in the California desert:
[T]he court...ruled that the Bush-era West Mojave Plan violated the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act by favoring off-road vehicle use over protection of sensitive desert resources, including endangered species and archeological sites....

The court’s order formally sets aside many of the route designations in the West Mojave while keeping in place critical conservation measures, including limits on development in areas of critical environmental concern and much-needed monitoring of impacts to species, water resources and air quality. It implements the court’s earlier decision, which rejected the Bureau’s use of a route designation “decision tree” to designate areas for off-road vehicles on the basis that it failed to comply with the law requiring minimization of routes in order to limit damage to public lands and disruption of wildlife and habitats.

The National Park Service is calling for restrictions on sunrise and sunset flights over the Grand Canyon:
Key features of the plan include increased flight altitudes near North Rim overlooks, reducing flights in Marble Canyon, moving routes away from some key visitor use areas, and establishing an hour-long flight-free period for an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset. This last change will be especially appreciated by backcountry hikers and river-runners, for it provides two hours a day of true extended natural quiet, at the times when the soft, rich light brings the canyons walls most subtly and dramatically alive.

The proposal caps nearly 25 years of work, initiated in the wake of a 1987 congressional mandate to come up with a plan that “provides for substantial restoration of the natural quiet and experience” of the Canyon.
Analysis of a federally funded early childhood education program shows an ROI of 11:1.

For every $1 invested in a Chicago early childhood education program, nearly $11 is projected to return to society over the children's lifetimes — equivalent to an 18 percent annual return on program investment, according to a study led by University of Minnesota professor of child development Arthur Reynolds in the College of Education and Human Development....

"Our findings provide strong evidence that sustained high-quality early childhood programs can contribute to well-being for individuals and society," said Reynolds, director of the Chicago Longitudinal Study and co-director of the Human Capital Research Collaborative at the University of Minnesota. "The large-scale CPC program has one of the highest economic returns of any social program for young people. As public institutions are being pressed to cut costs, our findings suggest that increasing access to high-quality programs starting in preschool and continuing into the early grades is an efficient use of public resources."

Researchers have found that portions of New Zealand's famed Pink Terraces survived the 1886 eruption of Mt. Tawawera:
The research team, using autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to map the bottom of Lake Rotomahana, are certain they have found the lower portions of the Pink Terraces on the lake floor. Project leader Cornel de Ronde, of GNS Science, said the team was elated by the discovery.

“The first sidescan sonar image gave a hint of a terraced structure so we scanned the area twice more and we are now 95 percent certain we are seeing the bottom two tiers of the Pink Terraces,” de Ronde said.

The Yellow Pages Association has launched an official opt-out site:
The YPA is calling the site the National Yellow Pages Consumer Choice & Opt-Out Site, because it allows you to opt out of all books or choose to receive selected books....

Stopping the delivery of antiquated phone books at the source is the best way to stem their environmental repercussions, which include the needless waste of paper, the energy it takes to produce them, and the CO2 emissions produced by delivering them.

The EPA has announced that it will regulate perchlorates in drinking water:

Said Mae Wu, a Natural Resources Defense Council attorney, "A very long period of bad public policy was reversed today"....

The biggest roadblock to this public protection was the Pentagon, which uses vast amounts of perchlorate in rocket and missile testing, which is suspected to be the major source of groundwater contamination around the country. In 2008, the Bush administration opted not to regulate the chemical.

The decision didn't yet establish a limit for perchlorate, just that it should be regulated. The limit itself will be the next big political battle.

The DC Superior Court has ruled that immigrant whistleblowers do not have to answer questions about their immigration status:
The Court barred the employer's lawyers from asking the plaintiffs and witnesses any questions about their immigration status. The lawyers are not allowed to ask about "immigration status, birthplace, entry into the United States, social security numbers or cards, a “green card” or alien residence card, passports, driver’s licenses, and any other inquiry intended to elicit information with regard to the immigration status of a plaintiff, witness, or person affiliated with a plaintiff or witness in this case."

This is such an important issue for low-wage immigrant workers. So many are afraid to pursue legal remedies. The potential immigration consequences are just so severe. This discovery holding should give immigrants and their advocates the foundation they need to remedy violations or workers' rights.

The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is up and running:
The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rolled out a preliminary version of its website on Thursday, and with it a few indications about the agency's plans to crowdsource prospective regulations that may soon target shady payday lenders.

The CFPB hopes to use its website at to collect data not just from banks, but from consumers, in order to monitor trends in various lending markets. While they're still devising specific plans, the agency hopes to have an active public presence, with a simple, closely-watched platform for borrowers to submit complaints.
Dutch architects are attempting to transform abandoned military bunkers into a "public domain":
Using a diamond-edged saw, it took a month to cut through the bunkers, steel-framed and with concrete walls several metres thick. The marks of the saw are visible on the interior walls (finished with epoxy), which Rietveld compares to a fossil. The gap between the bottom of the bunker and the landscape itself – a result of the fragile, subsiding Dutch ground – has been kept intact....

Unlike other wartime sites marked by great human loss, the Dutch Water Line saw little battle action, which means "we can think more freely about it", Rietveld says. "It makes it much lighter, and it's quite easy to rethink this whole area into a new public space for the Netherlands."
Treehugger reports on a solar energy project in West Virginia:
Mountain View Solar & Wind just installed the largest renewable energy project in West Virginia's Southern Coalfields -- it's an 11 kW rooftop solar panel system, and unemployed coal miners worked to set it up.

So, why is a tiny installation of rooftop solar panels in the middle of West Virginia noteworthy? Because it's the epitome of coal country -- exactly where ideological inroads need to be made before we'll be able to see large-scale climate action. And the first steps towards accomplishing this includes making a tangible demonstration that there's work, and life, beyond coal.
New York plans to extend its smoking ban to parks and beaches:

Some of the toughest anti-smoking measures to be adopted in a major city have been approved by councillors in New York.

The measures are set to extend a smoking ban to municipal parks, beaches and even Times Square....

"This summer, New Yorkers who go to our parks and beaches for some fresh air and fun will be able to breathe even cleaner air and sit on a beach not littered with cigarette butts," Mr Bloomberg said after the 36-12 vote.

Also: Christians protecting praying Muslims in Egypt. David Harvey on The Future of the Commons. Cartes de visite from the Carte Horse Conspiracy. And photos by Abelardo Morell:

Spring Valley Water Works
. Bark's winter garden. Photos by Gerco de Ruijter. Photos by Melanie Willhide. And Manhattan's stolen retro-future.

A guide to the cults. A diagram of slang. A handwritten geography notebook from 1804. Threads of Feeling (via Peacay). Photos by P.B. Abery. The moon and Venus over Switzerland. And some inventions:

And this.

(Photo at top: "Center of town. Woodstock, Vermont. 'Snowy night'" by Marion Post Wolcott, 1940).


Anonymous said...

I love your opening photo and also the opening story--and the Christians protecting Muslims really warmed my heart. Of course it's all great, highlight of my blogging week.

Phila said...

Glad to be of service!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful. Thank you.