Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Hope Blogging

A rather short edition this week, I'm afraid. Things are a bit hectic.

Over a hundred nations have adopted a landmark treaty outlawing cluster bombs:

The treaty immediately bans all types of cluster munitions, rejecting initial attempts by some nations to negotiate exceptions for their own arsenals, as well as calls for a transition that would delay the ban for a decade or more.

In addition to the prohibitions on use, production, stockpiling, and trade, the treaty also includes very strong provisions requiring states to provide assistance to victims and to clean up areas affected by cluster munitions....

“This treaty bans not just some cluster munitions, but all cluster munitions,” [Steve] Goose told the assembled delegates in his capacity as co-chair of the Cluster Munitions Coalition, a group of hundreds of NGOs supporting the ban. “It does not try to differentiate between good cluster munitions and bad cluster munitions, it bans them all. This is a convention with no exceptions."
Guess which countries wouldn't sign it.

New York will honor same-sex marriages performed in California and elsewhere:
State agencies, including those governing insurance and health care, must immediately change policies and regulations to make sure "spouse," "husband" and "wife" are clearly understood to include gay and lesbian couples, according to a memo sent this month from the governor's counsel.
San Diego's mayor has blocked Blackwater's plans for a training facility:
On Monday, Sanders told his development services director, Kelly Broughton, that Blackwater's permits, which had been issued by city staff, will require more scrutiny than the staff-level review.

Broughton then sent a letter to Blackwater vice president Brian Bonfiglio stating that “no certificate of occupancy will be issued” until the company's plans are approved by the San Diego City Council and Planning Commission.
Yet another member of the Fightin' Keyboarders has managed to shoot himself down over enemy territory. Click here for the dramatic story.

Abortion rates declined dramatically in Michigan in 2007.
Michigan health officials on Thursday announced that the number of abortions in the state had declined in 2007 to the lowest number on record, the Detroit News reports. According to the new data, there were 24,683 abortions in 2007 -- 200 abortions for every 1,000 live births in the state in 2007, compared with 350 abortions for every 1,000 live births in 1987.
The anti-abortion group Right to Life in Michigan says that this happened because "more and more women are coming to the realizatio[n] that abortion is not the answer to an unplanned pregnancy." More sensible people would argue that the abortion rate went down because the rate of teen pregnancies went down...possibly -- just possibly -- because access to education and birth control increased.

A hospital in Senegal has a solar backup system:
Up until now, hospital employees were forced to deal with power outages several times a day. Refrigeration for medicines was interrupted repeatedly, lights went off and what little medical equipment was available was out of commission. Now, with the photovoltaic system from SCHOTT Solar as a backup system, a secure supply of electricity is guaranteed.
In related news, Treehugger reports on a $100 wind turbine for villages that lack power:
It will be built in Guatemala, designed to be a cheap replacement for the kerosene lamps that are a fire and health risk. Project leader Matt McLean says "We've had to simplify the way we were thinking and get rid of the idea that everything had to be as efficient as possible," such as using teflon plumbing tape. "It's normally used for sealing pipes," said McLean. "But it's a very low cost way of reducing friction."
The Bush Administration has been forced to release a scientific assessment of climate change that confirms what the rest of us already knew:
“This assessment is an example of what federal scientists can and should be doing when they are freed from political interference and allowed to actually do their jobs,” said Kassie Siegel, climate program direction for the Center for Biological Diversity, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit that forced the administration to release today’s assessment.

Under the Global Change Research Act of 1990 the Bush administration was required to issue the assessment in late 2004, but the administration refused to do so. In November 2006, the Center for Biological Diversity, along with Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, filed suit against the administration for failing to issue the scientific assessment as well as a required research plan. In August 2007, Federal District Court Judge Saundra Armstrong issued an order finding the Bush administration in violation of the Global Change Research Act of 1990 for failing to produce an updated Research Plan and a National Assessment as required by the statute.
Speaking of which, it's a denialist article of faith that Hollywood, and other bastions of decadent Left Coast elitism, have bigger-than-average carbon footprints. A new study suggests that this may not actually be the case:
Honolulu, Los Angeles and metropolitan Portland have the smallest carbon footprint among American cities, while Cincinnati-Middletown area, Indianapolis, and Kentucky's Lexington-Fayette have the worst, according to a new report that analyzes carbon emissions from transportation and residential energy use by city dwellers.
Interesting, if true. At any rate, subway ridership has increased by 14% in Los Angeles, which would seem to contradict Randal O'Toole's claim that "people respond to high fuel prices by buying more efficient cars - and then driving more."

Inhabitat alerts me to a fun and informative Coal Plant Deathwatch Map. And Wisconsin has signed the Great Lakes Compact:
The compact would ban most diversions of water from the lakes' basin. Cities that straddle the basin's border or lie within counties that straddle the border could apply for an exemption. But any Great Lakes governor could block an exemption as well as withdrawals from outside the basin.

The eight Great Lakes governors signed the compact in 2005 after four years of negotiations, but it must be approved by each of the states and ratified by Congress before it can become law.
A teenager has reportedly invented a process that decomposes plastic bags in a mere three months:
The discovery hinges upon Burd’s isolation off two strains of bacteria (Sphingomonas and Pseudomonas) that work together to consume polyethelene plastic at record rates. His experiment yielded a culture that rendered plastic bags 43% decomposed after six weeks, with the only outputs being water and an infinitesimal amount of carbon dioxide. Burd has said that the system is cheap, energy efficient, and easily scalable for industrial applications. “All you need is a fermenter . . . your growth medium, your microbes and your plastic bags,” stated the young innovator.
A group that smuggled wildlife products has been jailed and fined:
On 27 May, international smugglers were sentenced to imprisonment and penalties as they were found guilty of trading Amur tiger derivates and bear paws between Russia and China....

“The unprecedented huge number of smuggled derivatives makes this case highly interesting. The latest prosecution marks the start of wildlife crime being treated with the seriousness it deserves”, said Natalia Pervushina, co-ordinator of TRAFFIC’s Russian Far East programme.
Last, the EPA has placed new controls on rat poisons:
“This is an important victory for child safety, and for birds such as eagles and hawks,” said Dr. Michael Fry, Director of Conservation Advocacy at American Bird Conservancy. “Wildlife poisonings have continuously occurred when birds of prey scavenge on dead rodents they find in open areas. The EPA hopes that restricting the sale of the more toxic poisons only to licensed pest control operators and livestock ranchers will effectively reduce the exposure to these birds and other wildlife.”

The most toxic rat poisons will be removed from the consumer market and replaced with less toxic alternatives, which have been shown to be equally effective in controlling rodent populations in cities and farm settings. All over-the-counter sales of these alternatives will be required to be in the form of bait stations to prevent accidental poisoning of children and pets.
That should leave you with plenty of room for dessert.

First and foremost: Perspectiva. Photographs by Yeondoo Jung, via Four Legs Good. Swedish tiled stoves (via things). Detour, an Australian photoblog. And Dark Clouds of the Carina Nebula.

Also: The surprising story of The Biggest Drawing in the World, and a nicely illustrated survey of defiant gardens.

I'll leave you with this. I hope you like it.

(Illustration: "The Mysterious Bird" by Charles Burchfield, 1917.)

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