Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Hope Blogging

A nonprofit group called the Press Institute for Women in the Developing World helps women to become journalists:

Since she graduated from the program, de Jesus Perez Mendez has enrolled all three of her children in school; the family just recently got its first sink. "I've learned about the environment and government, things I wasn't aware of," she says. "I've learned many things about life by practicing journalism. And I discovered why journalism is such a hard profession and why many journalists are persecuted or followed."

Recently, the institute had to put the Chiapas office on a three-month hiatus, as donations have fallen during a worldwide economic slump. The institute has redoubled its fundraising efforts and hopes to reopen the office in July, but the government taxes and fees required to maintain nonprofit status in Chiapas are daunting. "Our office in Mexico is constantly in limbo," Hegranes says. "The government makes it clear they don't want us there."
You can donate by clicking here.

If you're looking for other worthwhile things to do, check out Creative Citizen, a wiki site that exists "to tabulate and compile the world’s environmental information by housing it in the form of Creative Solutions, or actions you can take to become green."

The world's oldest operating irrigation system has survived the recent earthquake in China:
Zhang Shuanggun, a local villager....has a simple answer for why the ancient, bamboo-based Dujiangyan irrigation system sustained only minor damage, while nearby modern dams and their vast amounts of concrete are now under 24-hour watch for signs of collapse.

"This ancient project is perfection," Zhang said.
Satellite mapping allows archaeological research to move forward in dangerous areas:
The low-key Evans, a director of the University of Sydney’s Greater Angkor Project at just 32 years old, has already mapped northern Angkor, another heavily landmined area, from a computer screen in Australia. He has used radar and satellite images to chart its vast network of canals and reservoirs, proving that Angkor was once the largest city in the world, a metropolis consuming an area about the size of present-day Los Angeles.
A federal judge has rejected Kane County, Utah's bid to assert control of roads in Escalante National Wilderness:
U.S. District Court Judge Tena Campbell has ruled against claims by Kane County, Utah for county ownership of 39 roads in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This monumental decision is critical for the protection of federal public lands from excessive use by off-road vehicle recreationists, cattle operators, and miners. The decision set the stage for the protection of environmentally sensitive lands, imperiled species, and vulnerable archaeological resources....

Judge Campbell’s decision found that Kane County’s assertion for jurisdiction over the contested roads violated the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution; she ordered the county to remove its signs from the roads within 20 days. “By placing signs within the monument, the county has encouraged, sanctioned and facilitated public motor vehicle use of federal lands that the Bureau of Land Management officially closed to protect the Monument’s values,” Campbell wrote in her decision.

Birth control provisions have been retained in the supplemental spending bill:
A proposal that would restore government subsidies for birth control pills and devices at university health clinics and Planned Parenthood centers was retained in the Senate version of the war supplemental spending bill sent to the House on Thursday.

The provision seeks to undo part of a 2006 deficit reduction law (PL 109-171) that squeezed a total of $38.9 billion in savings from a variety of programs, including federal student loans, Medicare and Medicaid.
Anti-contraception BushCo apparatchik Susan Orr has resigned from DASPA:
Dr. Susan Orr, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Population Affairs and former Family Research Council staffer, stepped down today. A controversial appointee from the start, Dr. Orr had been in the position for less than a year.

Why so controversial? Her position oversees the administration of Title X, the only federal funding program providing contraceptive services to low-income women and men, but she had applauded President Bush's proposal to eliminate the requirement that federal employees' health insurance provide coverage for a range of birth control methods, saying, "We're quite pleased because fertility is not a disease. It's not a medical necessity that you have [contraception]."
Canada evidently disagrees, since it now allows emergency contraception to be sold over the counter:
The so-called "morning after" pill Plan B has received full over-the-counter status in Canada, drug maker Paladin Labs Inc said on Thursday.
Vermont's governor has signed a bill requiring insurance companies to limit copays for mammograms:
Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas (R) on Tuesday signed a bill into law that will require insurance providers in the state to charge no more than a $25 copayment for mammograms, the Barre Montpelier Times Argus reports. According to the Times Argus, the law will not help reduce mammography costs for uninsured women, but it will cap the out-of-pocket cost of a mammogram at $25. The National Cancer Institute says that the average cost for mammograms is $50 to $150 but can be as much as $300.
Virginia's ban on late-term abortions has once again been ruled unconstitutional:
In Richmond, the three-judge panel that overturned the law in 2005 repeated its 2 to 1 decision yesterday, saying that the only way doctors could be certain they would not be prosecuted under the law would be to stop performing abortions.
The 9th Circuit has ruled that the military can't discharge service members simply because they're gay:
Wednesday's ruling led opponents of the policy to declare its days numbered. It is also the first appeals court ruling in the country that evaluated the policy through the lens of a 2003 Supreme Court decision that struck down a Texas ban on sodomy as an unconstitutional intrusion on privacy.
Some humpback whale populations are rebounding:
The new research reveals that the overall population of humpbacks has rebounded to approximately 18,000 to 20,000 animals. The population of humpback whales in the North Pacific, at least half of whom migrate between Alaska and Hawaii, numbered less than 1,500 in 1966 when international whaling for this species was banned. In the 1970s, federal laws including the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act provided additional protection.
A Brazilian beetle offers clues to creating photonic crystals:
It appears that a simple creature like a beetle provides us with one of the technologically most sought-after structures for the next generation of computing,” says study leader Michael Bartl, an assistant professor of chemistry and adjunct assistant professor of physics at the University of Utah. “Nature has simple ways of making structures and materials that are still unobtainable with our million-dollar instruments and engineering strategies.”

Venezuela has banned gold mining in an important forest reserves (which you'd think would be unnecessary, given that it's a goddamn forest reserve):
Venezuela banned gold mining in its Imataca Forest Reserve and said it will not issue new permits for open-pit mines anywhere in the country, according to Reuters.

"Venezuela will deny environmental permits for the open-pit mine exploitation," Environment Minister Yuviri Ortega told Reuters in an interview last week. "Neither private or public companies will for now explore Imataca's gold."
Planners in Wales hope to create the garden cities dreamed of by Ebenezer Howard:
When the concept was hatched in 1898, Britain had been transformed by more than a century of rapid industrial development. Garden cities – or suburbs – were proposed as a solution to substandard and overcrowded housing and a lack of green space and clean air. The model was widely used in Britain in the early decades of the last century."
These would of course be new developments, which are...problematic. But depending on how closely they stick to Howard's sensibilities, I could learn to love them.

The more I hear about the USPS's free recycling program for e-waste, the better it sounds:
The postal service hired environmental consulting firm MBDC, which is led by "cradle-to-cradle" visionary William McDonough, to oversee Clover's procedures. As part of an audit of the company's environmental and occupational operations, MBDC made a pre-arranged visit to a Clover facility in Mexico where electronics are tested and dismantled. "Lots of people are very concerned about [e-waste], as we are. Everything we saw exceeds traditional global practices for responsible recycling," said Steve Bolton, an MBDC senior consultant. "Worker exposure was not an issue."
Inhabitat reports on dirt-powered fuel cells:
Microbial fuel cells (originally developed by Peter Girguis) work by tapping the energy that microbes generate as they break down organic matter. The idea is that you can dig a hole in the ground, then fill it with animal and plant waste. You take an anode and a cathode, hook it up to a circuit board and voila, enough electricity to charge up a battery! Put all of this into a solid container and you have a mobile, soil-based generator.
The EU has agreed on legislation that "will force national governments to apply criminal sanctions to those causing deliberate or negligent damage to the environment." Furthermore:
In another vote on 21 May, MEPs further called on the Commission to take action to prevent EU countries from "dumping" toxic waste on the beaches of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, where the large majority of EU-registered rusting ships are sent to be decommissioned.

The report calls on the EU to boost its own dismantling capacity and to ensure that all EU ships are pre-cleaned of hazardous waste if they are sent to poorer countries, where the fatal accident rate its much higher than in the EU and one in six workers suffers from asbestos.
Calculations of the amount of land, and the type of fertilizers, required to feed the world tend not to take wasted food into account. A new study describes the extent to which wasting food also wastes water:
As food prices escalate and water scarcity extends worldwide, the best solution to both issues would be a global reduction in wasted food, a new international report says.

Inefficient harvesting, transportation, storage, and packaging ruin 50 percent of food, according to the report, which was released last week by the Stockholm International Water Institute, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and the International Water Management Institute. Add up how much food consumers simply throw away, especially in developed nations, and a whole lot of water is being wasted as well.
Oil of oregano is said to work as well as synthetic insecticides against a crop-destroying beetle:
Not only does oregano oil work as well as synthetic versions but it has none of the associated side effects of synthetic insecticides on the environment.
The shareholder revolt over ExxonMobil's climate change inaction appears to be growing:
A shareholder revolt at ExxonMobil led by the billionaire Rockefeller family has won the support of four significant British institutional investors who will call on Monday for a shakeup in the governance of the world's biggest oil company. has learned that F&C Asset Management, Morley Fund Management, the Co-Operative Insurance Society and the West Midlands Pension Fund are throwing their weight behind a resolution demanding that ExxonMobil appoints an independent chairman to stimulate debate on the company's board.
The BLM has backed off on plans to lease Alaskan wetlands for drilling:
"It is a win," said Stan Senner, executive director of Audubon Alaska, one of the groups campaigning for preservation. "I think they've responded to public interest in seeing that the area's protected, and it gives people who care about the place time to work on a permanent solution."
The International Institute for Species Exploration has named the Top 10 new species discovered in 2007, and announced that "16,969 species new to science were discovered and described in 2006."

Indianapolis is tearing down billboards:
Norman Pace, land-use chairman for the Marion County Alliance of Neighborhood Associations, said he had waited eight years for the signs' demise. Thursday, he drove from his Warren Township home to the north split, the junction of I-70 and I-65 on the north side of Downtown, to watch the sign be dismantled.

"It was an eyesore blocking our city's beautiful skyscape," Pace said. "It detracted from the quality of life here. We don't want to look like one of these cities that are filled with billboards."
There's fascinating research being done on the biological basis of bird navigation:
A team of researchers at Arizona State University and the University of Oxford are the first to model a photochemical compass that may simulate how migrating birds use light and Earth's weak magnetic field to navigate. The team reports in the April 30, 2008, online issue of Nature that the photochemical model becomes sensitive to the magnitude and direction of weak magnetic fields similar to Earth's when exposed to light. The research funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) demonstrates that this phenomenon, known as chemical magnetoreception, is feasible and gives insight into the structural and dynamic design features of a photochemical compass.

More on fauna and pseudofauna: British insects and Margate's Mechanical Elephant (both via things).

The beautiful urban abstractions of Aaron Siskind are a nice introduction for a discussion of photography as eminent domain.

Also: Highlights from the Collection at (what is this?). Some nice images among The Visual Work of Scott Hanson. And some remarkable photos of a bog, courtesy of BogBlog (via wood s lot).

Too lazy to find a film this week, so you'll have to content yourselves with Nigunim from the Rebbe's Farbrengens.

(Photo at top: "For about 300 years Jupiter's banded atmosphere has shown a remarkable feature to telescopic viewers, a large swirling storm system known as The Great Red Spot. In 2006, another red storm system appeared, actually seen to form as smaller whitish oval-shaped storms merged and then developed the curious reddish hue. Now, Jupiter has a third red spot, again produced from a smaller whitish storm. All three are seen in this image made from data recorded on May 9 and 10 with the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2." Via NASA.)

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