Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday Hope Blogging

A judge in Iowa has struck down that state's ban on gay marriage:

In his 63-page decision, Hanson wrote that the statute excluding same-sex couples from marriage "violates Plaintiff's due process and equal protection rights for the aforementioned reasons including, but not limited to, the absence of a rational relationship to the achievement of any legitimate governmental interest." Therefore the law is "unconstitutional and invalid."
If you don't like it, move to Russia!

In related news, Maine's highest court has ruled in favor of a lesbian couple who wish to adopt two children:
The unanimous ruling opens the door in Maine for other co-parent adoptions by same-sex couples.
And anti-gay Fort Lauderdale mayor Jim Naugle has been tossed of f the Broward County Tourism Council:
During a short debate before the vote county commissioners called Naugle's anti-gay comments offensive" and "appalling." Commissioners also heard from members of the council who said Naugle's constant attacks on gays were hurting tourism, the county's biggest industry.
Funny how that works, eh?

A federal judge has blocked enforcement of a law that would've forced Planned Parenthood clinics to close:
The law, which was intended to take effect on Tuesday, would have placed abortion clinics under state supervision under the category of "outpatient surgery centers," requiring them to meet standards that Planned Parenthood says are "medically unnecessary," according to the Associated Press.
Activists in southern New Mexico are attempting to improve the quality of life in poor border communities:
As developers gobble up farms and desert scrub--sending the fringes of Las Cruces, N.M., and El Paso, Texas, sprawling toward one another--the region's poorest residents often find themselves squeezed out of affordable housing, exploited by predatory lenders and unsure of their rights. To the extent that anyone is coming to their aid, it's mainly female activists such those at the Colonias Development Council....
A court has ruled that Californians ought to be repaid the money stolen from them by Enron and its handmaidens:
Commenting on today's decision, Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. said, "Today's decision is a major victory for California ratepayers. I encourage FERC to promptly refund the more than $1 billion that was stolen from the people of California."
A while back, I blogged on the baiji, a Chinese river dolphin whose extinction had been announced by scientists. Now, a businessman has apparently filmed a surviving member of this species:
"This sighting presents a last hope that the Baiji may not go the way of the dodo bird," said Karen Baragona, Yangtze River Basin Program leader at World Wildlife Fund. "Other species have been brought back from the brink of extinction like the southern right whale and white rhinos, but only through the most intensive conservation efforts."

Iceland has canceled whaling operations for the next year:
Iceland has been deterred by condemnation from the International Whaling Commission for their illegal slaughter of whales. They have been deterred by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) which will not authorize the sale of Icelandic whale meat to Japan. And they have been deterred by international public criticism.
A new frog has been discovered in Colombia:
“The importance of this project is not just the discovery of the new frog,” said Oswaldo Cortes, team leader and one of the winners of the 2007 Conservation Leadership Programme awards. “But, most importantly, what this new discovery shows is how little we still know about our planet, and the many species that haven’t yet been discovered. This is why it is so important to work with local communities and educate them about the need for conservation.”

Not sure that this is good news, exactly, but it's certainly fascinating:
Scientists at the University of Rochester and the J. Craig Venter Institute have discovered a copy of the entire genome of a bacterial parasite residing inside the genome of its host species.

The finding, reported in today’s Science, suggests that lateral gene transfer—the movement of genes between unrelated species—may happen much more frequently between bacteria and multicellular organisms than scientists previously believed, posing dramatic implications for evolution.
Speaking of evolution, the creationist oddball Stuart Pivar has withdrawn his frivolous $15 million lawsuit against PZ Myers and Seed.

There's apparently been a breakthrough in magnetic cooling:
[T]here are three good reasons why this type of cooling has a future. First, the technology is potentially more energy-efficient than the alternatives. It only really uses energy to move the magnetic field to and from the magnetic material. The model currently under development produces the magnetic field through a system of powerful blocks of magnets similar to those we use on our refrigerator doors, only stronger. These do not get worn out, and thus do not need replacing, which is very good for the environment.

This leads to the second major benefit, namely the fluid, which could turn out to be just plain water. Consequently, there would not be the same environmental impact as with today’s compressor-based refrigerators. The third great potential difference is the noise level. Bahl expects their demonstration model, which should be ready in 2010, to be practically silent.
Inhabitat reports on an attractive new solar water-disinfecting bottle:
The slim PET container holds 4 liters of water and can be easily arranged back-to-back for carry. A specially designed handle allows balanced transport and doubles as a stand to provide optimal solar incidence. UV-A exposure and thermal gain are maximized with a bi-color blown injection molding that creates both a transparent side and a dark, heat-absorbing side. Iconic graphics on the back of the container provide directions for proper usage.
And The Sietch Blog alerts me to a solar web host:
Solar Host is a web hosting service that runs completely off solar power and even its datacentre is certified energy efficient. Not just carbon deals and energy rebates efficient - we mean totally solar. It even stores the juice in biodegradable batteries! And with prices ranging from £20 a year for an email only package to £95 a year for 2Gb of webspace, it's wallet-friendly too.
The Detroit Free Press has an interesting article about the explosion of microfarms in that city's vacant lots:
When it comes to potential for gardening, Detroit is a land of vast opportunity. The city owns 20,000 vacant parcels that are available free by permit for gardening during one growing season, according to James Canning, deputy press secretary for Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. He says the city is considering creating several community gardens that could be open next spring.
Triple Pundit announces the end of paper airline tickets:
I'm happy to report that IATA (the authority which governs such things) has finally, magically, dealt a final blow to the persistence of paper tickets and they will officially be a thing of the past by June 1st. The result will save untold numbers of trees, a lot of hassle, and apparantly $9 per passenger. No word on whether you'll see that $9 though.
A new study details the eerie antimicrobial powers of soap:
In the first known comprehensive analysis of whether antibacterial soaps work better than plain soaps, Allison Aiello of the U-M School of Public Health and her team found that washing hands with an antibacterial soap was no more effective in preventing infectious illness than plain soap. Moreover, antibacterial soaps at formulations sold to the public do not remove any more bacteria from the hands during washing than plain soaps.
Tell your friends, and your crazy relatives!

There's interesting work being done on malaria prevention:
“The discovery allows us to think differently about preventing the disease,” Linhardt said. “If we can stop heparan sulfate from binding to the parasite in mosquitoes, we will not just be treating the disease, we will be stopping its spread completely.”
This is an attractive idea not just because of the lives it'd save, but also because it'd be a dagger in the heart of the DDT fetishists.

Arms Control Wonk links to an article on the ongoing efforts to secure nuclear materials in the former Soviet bloc:
So far, the Nunn-Lugar program has led to the deactivation of 6,982 strategic nuclear warheads, the destruction of 653 intercontinental ballistic missiles and elimination of 30 nuclear submarines and 155 bombers, among others, according to a statement from Lugar.

The program has also paid for security improvements such as $25 million to upgrade buildings at Luch. The 28 locations of nuclear material have been reduced to five.
I'm delighted with this Flickr set of envelope security patterns.

And with the photos of Didier Massard at Giornale Nuovo, which "[draw] from our collective romantic and touristic notions of nationality and place":

You probably ought to take A Close-Up View of Wood Spurge. And you definitely ought to take a close-up view of BibliOdyssey's Offcuts:

You'll find an incredible collection of old music at El Diablo Tun Tun. As for me, I'm absolutely swooning over La grande Vedette Malienne Kandja Kouyaté et l'Ensemble Instrumental du Mali (via Awesome Tapes from Africa).

Last, and undoubtedly least, The Rag-Bag, by Nathaniel P. Willis.

(Photo at top by Giacomo Brunelli, via Luminous Lint.)


Anonymous said...

Could you repost the link for the magnetic cooling article?

Current takes us to sea (and I forgot rest) link.

Phila said...

Done. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

How about a couple of new mosquito species?

One of which lives and breeds inside a carnivorous pitcher plant.

Anonymous said...

Very cool that the baiji is still with us. I saw an article on that and intended to post it but got lost in depression over the revived rumors of attacks on Iran.

Thanks for a small ray of hope.

And I can remind myself of that gorgeous golden Venus I saw this week.

(Trying very hard to cheer myself up.)


Phila said...

got lost in depression over the revived rumors of attacks on Iran.

Definitely not any easy sort of despair to overcome....