Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Hope Blogging

Good riddance to Hosni Mubarak:

“I’ve worked my whole life to see the power of the people come to the fore,” activist Rabab Al Mahdi told Al Jazeera through tears. “I never thought I would be alive to see it. It’s not just about Mubarak. It’s a protest that brought about the people’s power to bring about the change that no one, no one thought was possible.”

The euphoria is unimaginable. Peaceful protests, propelled but by no means determined by social media, dislodged a 30-year dictatorship in one of the most important Middle Eastern countries. Neither violent repression nor an Internet shutdown nor mass arrests of Facebook-fueled human rights activists could stop what’s become the #Jan25 revolution.
And Harrison Schmitt:

Ex-astronaut and current climate change denier Harrison Schmitt has withdrawn as the potential New Mexican cabinet secretary for the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.

Schmitt, whose climate inaccuracies (and his refusal to correct obvious errors) have landed him in a pack of trouble of late, may have been telling the truth about his reasons for withdrawing. Or not.

Either way, Schmitt and his Heartland Institute fellow travellers are likely to think twice before again challenging someone with the credibility of Sandia National Laboratories physicist Dr. Mark Boslough, the scientist who revealed Schmitt's most egregious recent false statement about climate change.

Illinois has approved civil unions:
Governor Pat Quinn today signs into law the Illinois Religious Freedom and Protection and Civil Union Act, making civil unions available for same-sex couples in Illinois. The law, drafted by lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, marks an important step toward fairness for thousands of gay and lesbian couples in Illinois. Illinois now joins a growing list of states across the country that provide legal protections to the unions of same-sex couples.
In response, Sam Ritchie at Blog of Rights has created an animated map showing the spread of "relationship recognition for same-sex couples."

In related news, Maggie Gallagher's harebrained bigotry has apparently compelled an opponent of gay marriage to switch sides:

The Senate Judicial Proceedings committee heard 7 hours of testimony last night on whether or not to legalize gay marriage, including from NOM’s Maggie Gallagher. Now one Senator, who was previously a foe, has said her testimony convinced him to support marriage equality.

Senator James Brochin (D) was one of the few Democrat Senators who was opposed to gay marriage. But after listening to testimony from Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization For Marriage (NOM), he’s said that her “demonization” of gay families has convinced him that he should side with marriage equality.

Speaking of which:
"It's really embarrassing, when you think about it. Just the fact that people in this century were actually saying things like, 'No, gays should not be allowed to marry,' and were getting all up in arms about it, as if homosexuals weren't full citizens or something. It's insane."
Female genital mutilation is on the decline:
A joint program between the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) reported that over 6,000 communities in Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Senegal, Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Guinea and Somalia have abandoned the practice of female genital mutilation/ cutting (FGM/C).

Nafissatou Diop, coordinator of the UNFPA-UNICEF program, stated, "We are working in 12 out of 17 priority African countries and have seen real results...In Ethiopia, the prevalence rate has fallen from 80 percent to 74 percent, in Kenya from 32 percent to 27 percent, and in Egypt from 97 percent to 91 percent."
As is the birth rate among US teens:
[T]he rates fell significantly for teens in all age groups and all racial and ethnic groups, pushing the rate for each age group and for nearly all race and ethnic groups to the lowest levels ever reported, according to the analysis.
The North Carolina Department of Revenue will no longer demand private customer information from online retailers:

This settlement is a great win for privacy. While the court's ruling concerned only the specific request issued to Amazon, the settlement covers requests to all Internet retailers who sell books, movies, music, and similar expressive materials. North Carolina has apparently issued similar requests to other Internet retailers, and previously indicated that it planned to issue more such requests in the future. We are pleased that North Carolina has agreed to take a new approach. Requesting information about what people are purchasing online causes real harm, to real people, and it is unconstitutional in these circumstances.

A federal judge has ruled that FOIA documents must have searchable metadata:
The federal government must provide documents "in a usable format" when it responds to Freedom of Information Act requests, a federal judge in Manhattan has ruled.

Southern District of New York Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, after faulting the government for offering "a lame excuse" for delivering non-searchable documents, ruled for the first time that federal agencies must turn over documents that include "metadata," which allows them to be searched and indexed.
The new food safety bill protects whistleblowers:
Food industry workers who become whistleblowers gained protection against retaliation from their employers with a little-noticed provision in the sweeping food safety law President Barack Obama signed last month....

The new law protects workers against retaliation for telling their employers or governmental officials about anything they reasonably believe violates the food safety act and for objecting to performing work they reasonably believe is illegal. The Department of Labor and federal courts can reinstate fired employees and award back pay, interest, attorneys' fees and other damages.

Kentucky will make an effort to keep mentally ill people from buying guns:

On the gun bill, the committee without debate approved House Bill 308, which would require Kentucky to notify the FBI when a court commits people to a mental institution or otherwise finds them mentally incompetent. The FBI would add the names of those people to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, used by federally licensed gun dealers to screen their customers.

Whooping cranes will be reintroduced to Louisiana:

Ten whooping cranes, the most endangered species of crane in the world, will be reintroduced in a Louisiana conservation area more than 60 years after the birds' numbers dwindled to near zero, the U.S. Interior Department said on Tuesday....

The total population, once believed to have numbered more than 15,000, fell to just 15 birds in the 1940s as a result of hunting and habitat loss, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

The entire Louisiana population had been wiped out or removed by the 1950s. The surviving birds all belonged to one flock that migrated between Canada and Texas and is still the only self-sustaining wild population of whooping cranes.

"That's as close to extinction as anything's ever come," said Heather Ray, director of development for Operation Migration. Her group and others have worked to re-establish the whooping crane.

Pacific loggerhead turtles have won some additional protection:

Fewer rare sea turtles will die on the swordfish industry’s longlines in Hawaii under an agreement between environmental groups and the government that settles a lawsuit challenging the feds’ plans to dramatically increase the number of turtles that could be killed. The Center for Biological Diversity, KAHEA and Turtle Island Restoration Network sued the National Marine Fisheries Service for allowing 46 imperiled Pacific loggerhead turtles to be hooked last year; the new court-ordered settlement caps the number at 17 per year. Meanwhile the Fisheries Service is weighing whether loggerheads need more protection under the Endangered Species Act.

As have endangered toads and lilies:
Responding to legal challenges by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today finalized critical habitat for the arroyo toad and thread-leaved brodiaea — a rare Southern California lily. The designation for the toad includes 98,366 acres in Monterey, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange and San Diego counties. The designation for the thread-leaved brodiaea includes 2,947 acres in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange and San Diego counties. The Bush administration tried to designate just 11,695 critical habitat acres for the toad and 597 acres for the brodiaea, but the Center’s legal challenges to both of those decisions led to today’s announcement of far larger areas.
Namibia has turned its entire coastline into a national park:

The Namib-Skeleton Coast National Park covers 26.6 million acres, making it larger than Portugal.

It stretches for 976 miles (1,570km), from the Kunene River, at the northern border with Angola, to the Orange River, on the border with South Africa, and is expected to be promoted as a unified destination. The protected coastline consolidates three national parks: Skeleton Coast, Namib-Naukluft and Sperrgebiet.
Giant rats and face carvings. How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm, after they've seen Cahokia? Photos by Fred Herzog (via wood s lot). And Irandokht: a survey of "devastated identity papers within urban waste of Statistic and Registration Administration":

Conundrums. Early valentines. Sand dunes of the Rub’ al Khali Desert. Biblical metaphors of knowledge in early modern Europe. A visit to Yubileiny. A visit to Sydney. A visit to Iceland. And photos by Peter Henry Emerson:

Radio Aporee. Photos by Fernan Federici (via but does it float). Photos by Chris Porsz (via things). An anomalous SETI signal. Quasicrystal diffraction patterns. Map your voice. And photos of Corpus Christi in the 1930s:

I've also got an animated film for you, believe it or not.

(Image at top: "Composition" by Theodoros Stamos, 1946.)


chris said...

That's great news about Harrison Schmitt. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I had no idea the prevalence rate of genital mutilation in Egypt had been 97% (nor the high rate in Ethiopia). A drop is good but still, 91%? It horrifies me to think of the contradiction between the people protesting for freedom and the same people mutilated, mutilating or expecting the mutilation of their daughters, sisters, wives.