Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday Hope Blogging

The Supreme Court has ruled that Guantanamo inmates have the right to challenge their imprisonment in a civilian court:

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court, said, "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times"....

The court said not only that the detainees have rights under the Constitution, but that the system the administration has put in place to classify them as enemy combatants and review those decisions is inadequate.
An appalling dissent, which sounds more like a tabloid op-ed than a legal argument, was written by John Roberts, of whom David Broder once said, "Roberts's only problem is that he has set a standard so high, it will be difficult for the next nominee to measure up."

Which leads us ineluctably to the subject of open-air cesspools full of hog waste.
Thirteen years after a big hog waste pool in Onslow County gushed through earthen walls, over roads and into tributaries of the New River and launched an effort to replace such open-air cesspools, the state has chosen three farms to install innovative technologies to replace the old way of storing animal wastes.

The N.C. General Assembly years ago ordered new technologies developed to replace stinking hog waste pits such as the one at Ocean View Farms that held the feces and urine of 10,000 hogs. The state's action this week has been a long time coming.
Good things come to those who wait, eh?

Apropos of stinking waste pits, an impressive power plant will be built in California's Central Valley:
A proposed Central Valley power plant will tap three potent sources of renewable energy at once - the sun, crop stubble and cow manure.

The plant, near the old oil-patch town of Coalinga in Fresno County, will combine a large solar farm with a generator that burns orchard trimmings, agricultural waste and, yes, excrement....

The plant's design will allow it to do something not typically associated with solar power. It will keep running, and generating power, at night.
It's wonderful that society has progressed to the point where such things are conceivable. Back in 1922, people had to content themselves with power plants that ran on sewage gas:

The Birmingham engine runs about six hours a day and is used to operate a centrifugal sludge pump that moves the wet sludge from the gas-generating tank to the drying grounds. In this process a small proportion of the waste material produces enough power to run the pumps of the sewage disposal plant. If all the material were used, there would probably be enough gas available to light the city.
In related news, rising fuel prices are causing shippers to look anew at the Erie Canal.
According to the federal transportation department, shipping by water is far more energy-efficient. In a tractor-trailer, one gallon of fuel is needed to transport one ton of freight 59 miles. On a barge, the same load will go 514 miles on a gallon of fuel."
Hooray for Progress, says I.

Australia may end its 12-year ban on funding abortion services abroad:
The United States and Australia are the only countries that provide development aid on the condition that none of the money be used for abortion services, Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance Bob McMullan told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
Egypt has launched an ambitious family planning program:
Egyptian Health Minister Hatem al-Gabali said on Tuesday that the country had set aside 480 million Egyptian pounds (around 90 million dollars) to cope with its overpopulation problem through family planning....

With an average of 3.1 children per woman, rising to five children in rural areas, the Arab world's most populous country had seen a declining birth rate until 10 years ago.
Behold the irreversible phenomenon of demographic shift.

Meanwhile, in a heartening example of psychographic shift, Southern Baptists are increasingly distancing themselves from "Southern Baptists":
"The word Baptist is such a turnoff," said David Roozen, director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research in Connecticut, who has documented the name-changing trend. "There is a kind of national skepticism about evangelical Christianity because of the religious right and the connection to the Bush administration. You say 'Baptist' and people almost automatically think conservative."
The EPA has blocked the expansion of a ConocoPhillips refinery in response to concerns about air quality:
"This is a huge win for anyone living near a refinery, but especially the communities in the Metro East area and for St. Louis," said Ann Alexander, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council and lead litigator on the challenge.
There's new evidence that the SUV is on its way out:
Nissan pounded the latest nail into the coffin today when it followed General Motors, Ford and Toyota in saying it will scale back production of trucks and SUVs in favor of fuel-efficient cars now that the bottom has fallen out of light truck market. Car sales, which accounted for half of the industry's volume last year, hit 57 percent last month while truck sales fell by double-digits to their lowest mark since 1995.

Need more proof the SUV is a goner? Ford's venerable F150 pickup ended its 17-year-run as the best-selling vehicle in America last month, dethroned by the Honda Civic and three other Japanese sedans. General Motors is looking to unload Hummer, the epitome of gas-guzzling excess, after sales fell 60 percent in May. The number of Civics sold in one month exceed the number of Hummers GM expects to sell all year.
A researcher hopes to make "greener" asphalt:
Asphalt, which is used to pave over 90 percent of American roads, is processed in Western countries through a process requiring the tar-like substance to be heated to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, an energy-intensive procedure that also produces carbon emissions. In less wealthy parts of the world, though, a "cold mix" approach has long been used; the asphalt isn't heated, but is sheared into fine particles and mixed with water and surfactants so it can be spread across a road's surface until it hardens.

Now a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr. Hussain Bahia, intends to adapt these African and Indian techniques - developed by road-builders who couldn't afford to heat asphalt to make it pliable - for use here.
Sounds pretty good. On the other hand, the researcher's name is Hussain, so it's possible that the whole thing's a terrorist plot.

Houston will try a "tele-nursing" system in order to reduce the use of ambulances and ERs:
Hoping to cut back on the number of ambulances responding to non-emergency calls, the City Council voted Wednesday to hire round-the-clock "tele-nurses" to work with 911 dispatchers.

For callers who do not have a true emergency, a nurse will offer first-aid advice over the phone, or help them find a clinic or doctor.
Ships have been asked to make a detour around an important right whale habitat, in order to reduce the risk of fatal collisions:
“In the first four days (since implementation of new policy), we’ve seen evidence of vessels complying,” says Angelia Vanderlaan, a PhD candidate studying biological oceanography at Dalhousie University. “Since this is new and it is a voluntary measure, I’m hoping it will work.”
A new study suggests that island birds can adapt to new predators:
The new study flies in the face of a widely accepted theory that suggests that island birds are especially vulnerable to predators because they've missed the opportunity to evolve alongside them, unlike their mainland counterparts.

"The main findings of our study are that naïve endemic island birds are not necessarily trapped by their evolutionary history as is generally considered to be the case, but they have the ability to change their behaviors in ways that appear adaptive," Massaro said.

"More importantly, our study demonstrates that such a change can occur over an ecologically relevant time scale of years and not centuries."
A sea dragon in a Georgia aquarium has become pregnant:
In the wild, the survival rate for sea dragon babies is low, but in captivity it's about 60 percent, Gladish said. The fish is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's list of threatened species, mostly because of pollution and population growth in its native Australia.

Only about 50 aquariums worldwide have sea dragons.

A new study proves conclusively that almost all legitimate environmental science comes from discoverists who are affiliated with conservative think tanks:
The study, published in this month's issue of Environmental Politics, analyzed books written between 1972 and 2005 that deny the urgency of environmental protection. The researchers found that more than 92 percent of the skeptical authors were in some way affiliated to conservative think tanks - non-profit research and advocacy organizations that promote core conservative ideals.
As if to underscore these findings, a patchouli-drenched gaggle of Stalinist hippie cultists from 13 national academies of science has just issued a laughably unscientific plea for "action" on climate change. And in the EU, a foolhardy attempt to limit carbon emissions has led to a Second Dark Age:
Despite its hasty adoption and somewhat rocky beginning three years ago, the EU "cap-and-trade" system has operated well and has had little or no negative impact on the overall EU economy, according to an MIT analysis.
As if that weren't enough, the UK's traditional way of life is threatened by a weird new type of washing machine:
A washing machine using as little as a cup of water for each washing cycle could go on sale to environmentally conscious Britons next year.

Xeros Ltd, which has been spun out of the University of Leeds to commercialize the technology, said on Monday the new machines would use less than 2 percent of the water and energy of a conventional washing machine.
A new water filtration method is reportedly "cheaper and can recycle about five times faster than today’s system."
The system involves a spiral filtration system. Water is funneled through lightweight disks as they spin, separating dirt and particles from the clean water. Another advantage of the new invention is that much less land space is needed than for a water-treatment plant.
Researchers claim to have figured out how rice absorbs arsenic:
"Our observations ... may provide a key to the development of low arsenic crops for food production," the team from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and the University of Gothenburg in Sweden wrote in the journal BioMed Central Biology.
Colombia has created a rainforest reserve for the conservation of medicinal plants:
The Orito Ingi-Ande Medicinal Flora Sanctuary encompasses 10,626 hectares of biologically-rich tropical rainforest ranging in altitude from 700 to 3300 meters above sea level. The sanctuary is based on an initiative launched by local indigenous communities with the support of the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT), an innovative NGO working with native peoples to conserve biodiversity, health, and culture in South American rainforests. Members of the communities — which include the Kofán, Inga, Siona, Kamtsá, and Coreguaje tribes — combined their rich knowledge of medicinal plants with cutting-edge technology to determine the placement and extent of the reserve. Their contributions to the effort are reflected in the name of the reserve, according to ACT.
A new bird flu vaccine sounds promising:
The advance is good news not just for preparations in case of a pandemic, but also because it offers a way to make shots for seasonal flu much faster. That gives health officials crucial extra time to better match annual shots to the flu strains circulating.

It also would reduce dependence on the antiquated system of using millions of eggs to make flu vaccines and could cut production time roughly in half, to as little as 12 weeks, according to maker Baxter International Inc.
The best blog I've stumbled on this week is Room 26, which is a "cabinet of curiosities" from the Beinecke Library. Just to get you started, here's a collection of useful oratorical gestures, and a scene from the lands of Browlia and Frowlia.

But if I had to sum up what I love most about teh Interwebs, I'd probably just point to Type in the Toronto Subways.

Who among us does not love sunken cities? Here's one in California, and here's one in the UK. Also: Herman Sörgel’s Atlantropa Project, which involved a "proposal to dam the Mediterranean at both ends, using the reduced inflow to generate massive amounts of hydroelectricity (110,000 Megawatt via several dams, of which 50,000 MW via the Gibraltar dam alone)."

Just to round things out: Hungarian water towers at night (via Dark Roasted Blend). A primer on video microscopy, with examples. Hagley Museum Machinery (via Coudal, IIRC). And a gorgeous collection of color images from The Paris Exhibition of 1900 (via Plep).

Last, a short film made by Mary Ellen Bute in 1940.

Photo at top: "Desert Sunrise, Mohave Desert 1925" by Milton Inman.)


Anonymous said...

A new study proves conclusively that almost all legitimate environmental science comes from discoverists who are affiliated with

a new study about a study about a study showed that right wingers are craven and unholy.

very metainteresting metascience.

they're working on that applause button.

nice fonts! and er... fonts!

Phila said...

Your irony meter seems to be broken.

Unless, of course, you've simply turned it off.

Interrobang said...

That article on the typography of the TTC makes my head hurt. (Did you see that guy's main page?! For someone who's ostensibly critiquing design, he has approximately zero sense of it.)

Then again, I am an unashamed TTC partisan, and I consider his snide little digs at the streetcars and the look of the subway system ("washroom architecture," my ass!) to be quite insulting.

Phila said...

Then again, I am an unashamed TTC partisan, and I consider his snide little digs at the streetcars and the look of the subway system ("washroom architecture," my ass!) to be quite insulting.

I'm embarassed to say that I only skimmed the site...I was just admiring the pictures and interested in the historical info, and was intending to go back and read the whole thing later.

I love the TTC too, and probably wouldn't have linked to the site if I'd noticed the stuff you're talking about....

Anonymous said...

it is wonderful

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