Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

of Chromodoris hinuanensis. All things twice over.

The strong clocks justify
the splitting hour,

You, clamped
into your deepest part,
climb out of yourself,
for ever.

(Photo by Raymond™.)

Friday Hope Blogging

I'm very busy this week, so I beg you to concentrate on quality rather than quantity. (On second thought, maybe you'd better not concentrate on either one!)

In California, opponents of same-sex marriage didn't want the state to describe their proposed constitutional ban as a "limit" on marriage rights. For reasons that ought to be obvious even to authoritarian homophobes, a judge has rejected their argument:

[A] Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled Friday that Brown's reference to an elimination of rights was an accurate description of the purpose and effect of Prop. 8, and a state appeals court in Sacramento turned down an emergency appeal by the Yes on 8 campaign late Friday.
Meanwhile, supporters of the Electrogenital Torture for Parking Violations Act are lobbying to get it renamed the "Safer Streets Initiative." I'll let you know how things turn out.

Colombia's High Court has ruled that emergency contraception and abortion are two different things:
[C]itizen Carlos Humberto Gómez Arambula...argued that the EC is "abortive" and violated the right to life for Colombian citizens. This was the same argument that the Constitutional Court of Chile used to ban the free distribution of emergency contraception in the public health system last April.

Contrary to what happened in Chile, the Colombian high court declared that EC is not abortive and does not fall afoul of the right to life. This is in line with the World Health Organization, which has unequivocally stated that "Levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive pills have been shown to prevent ovulation and they did not have any detectable effect on the endometrium (uterine lining) or progesterone levels when given after ovulation. Emergency contraception pills are not effective once the process of implantation has begun, and will not cause abortion."
That's all well and good, but what about Carlos Humberto Gómez Arambula's feelings?

Yet another bid to expand off-road vehicle use in Death Valley has failed:
Inyo County officials had hoped to take control of three routes — little-used paths and canyon bottoms — using a repealed, 19th-century right-of-way law known as R.S. 2477. The judge ruled that the county waited too long to assert its claims to the three roads within the national park because they were included in wilderness study areas by the federal Bureau of Land Management in 1979. The court agreed with arguments by conservation groups and the National Park Service that the county’s claims were barred because it had failed to file suit within the 12-year statute of limitations. The court thus dismissed the county’s claims to all of one route and most of the other two routes.
The appalling Paul Hoffman has left the Interior Department:
Hoffman sparked a furor by trying to rewrite all Park Service management policies to subordinate the parks’ conservation mission to “enjoyment” by the public, a stance that promoted human intrusions from snowmobiles to hunting. In his draft, Hoffman, a “Young Earth” creationist, struck all references to evolution (such as, “species are evolving” and “naturally evolving ecosystems”) in some cases leaving entire paragraphs intact except to excise an evolution reference.
The Navy has agreed to limit its use of sonar:
The Navy's use of low frequency active sonar will remain limited to certain military training areas of the Pacific Ocean, according to an agreement approved by a U.S. district court in San Francisco today.
The comprehensive agreement between the Navy and conservation organizations follows a court injunction issued early this year against the Navy's Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System Low Frequency Active sonar system, which fills vast ocean areas with blasts of underwater noise to detect submarines at great distances.

The court agreed with a coalition of organizations led by the Natural Resources Defense Council that the Navy's proposed LFA deployment in more than 70 percent of the world's oceans is illegal.
The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that oil sands can't be described as "sustainable":
The ASA said that the use of the word "sustainable" throughout the advertisement was defined as "primarily in environmental terms". Because Shell had not provided evidence that it was "effectively" managing carbon emissions from its oil sands projects "in order to limit climate change", the ASA deemed that the advertisement was misleading.

The ASA came to the same conclusion about Shell's claims about the redevelopment of the Port Arthur oil refinery and said the advertisement should not be shown again in its current form.
Research continues into the use of paved surfaces as solar collectors:
“Asphalt has a lot of advantages as a solar collector,” Mallick says. “For one, blacktop stays hot and could continue to generate energy after the sun goes down, unlike traditional solar-electric cells. In addition, there is already a massive acreage of installed roads and parking lots that could be retrofitted for energy generation, so there is no need to find additional land for solar farms. Roads and lots are typically resurfaced every 10 to 12 years and the retrofit could be built into that cycle. Extracting heat from asphalt could cool it, reducing the urban ”˜heat island’ effect. Finally, unlike roof-top solar arrays, which some find unattractive, the solar collectors in roads and parking lots would be invisible.”
Ikea is investing $75 million towards cheap solar panels:
Stenebo's Greentech will put about US$75 million into at many as ten companies in five different areas: solar technology, energy conservation, water saving products, alternative lighting, and new product materials. Scandinavian companies are Greentech's first focus. Nearly all of these areas are ones we would welcome the IKEA low-cost approach to, although setting up solar roof panels with just the simplistic diagrams and little Allen keys that accompany IKEA's usual do-it-yourself furniture seems something of a stretch. Then there's the problem than many installations require building and other permits. But IKEA's fabulous distribution network of 270 global superstores would mean green tech for the global masses, a welcome development.
Texas has taken steps towards building transmission lines for wind energy:
Already the nation’s leader in wind energy, the Lone Star state has been given a preliminary go-ahead to allocate $4.9 billion towards building new transmission lines to carry wind energy from rural areas into urban hubs like Dallas. This doesn’t necessarily mean the production of new turbines, just the most efficient use of the existing wind energy infrastructure. The upgrade stands to harness 18,000 megawatts from Texas’ 4,000 wind turbines - enough to power more than 4 million homes.
Apparently, they're unaware that there are forty gallons of oil in the average tree.

A company claims to have grown "significant amounts" of bioplastic in switchgrass:
Mirel is a versatile bioplastic with has many uses including food packaging, agricultural products, and consumer goods. It’s tough and durable, resistant to heat and hot liquids, and completely biodegrades when exposed to microbial activity in soil, marine environments, or compost piles.

Now Metabolix can make Mirel by combining genes of naturally occurring substances to produce a polyhydroxybutyrate (PHA) polymer that grows directly in switchgrass. As an added bonus, once the polymer has been harvested, the leftover plant can be used as a source for biomass energy. An efficient and versatile source of bioplastic such as this is sure to enable future generations of eco-friendly industrial design.
Now, then. Precarious houses (via wood s lot). The strange story of Shanta Rao Dutt. Childhood photos recreated Many Years Later.

The type-writer! : a machine to supersede the pen. An online myriorama, complete with moving parts. Electronics in the World of Tomorrow. And an exhibition of Asia-Pacific Photography 1840s-1940s.

Last, a new type of Film-Ballet.

(Illustration at top: "Rising Sun" by Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, 1904. Via Woolgathersome.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Freedom Machines

It's no use talking to Ernest Istook about donkey carts, or velocipedes, or ornithopters. The plain fact is, he's simply wild about automobiles! He likes them so much that he refers to them, rather tautologically, as "great American Freedom machines."

Consider the evidence: As long as you've got enough money to fill your tank, you can use your car to travel from the place where you live to the place where you work. If that's not freedom, what is?

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. In some states, you can also drive your car to a late-term abortion appointment, or a same-sex marriage ceremony (though you filthy perverts may rest assured that Mr. Istook and his colleagues are working on these problems as we speak).

Also, unlike mass transit, transportation by car is not subsidized by taxpayers (so long as you ignore the cost of oil and gas subsidies, and building freeways through residential areas, and treating pavement runoff laden with automotive fluids and heavy metals, and sacrificing parks and agricultural land, and protecting oil tankers and infrastructure, and air pollution, and congestion and crashes, and the billions of dollars that driver fees and taxes fail to cover in any given year).

In NYC, meanwhile, plans are being made to screen every vehicle Freedom machine that visits the island for radioactivity.

The proposal — called Operation Sentinel — relies on integrating layers of technologies, some that are still being perfected. It calls for photographing, and scanning the license plates of, cars and trucks at all bridges and tunnels and using sensors to detect the presence of radioactivity.
A while back, I suggested that purposefully triggering urban radiation sensors would be a cheap and easy way of causing chaos. That was idle speculation, of course, and there's no reason to believe that our pitiless enemies are capable of coming up with a tactic like that (not without dedicating an hour or two to working out the logistics, anyway).

Which is just as well, because if Noah Shachtman is to be believed, the current system is very sensitive indeed:
I spent some time with an NYPD unit, armed with these sensors. Just about anything would set them off -- like a patient getting chemotherapy, for example.
Even assuming they manage to reduce the false alarms to a bare minimum, it sounds as though this extraordinarily data-hungry Emancipation Contraption will cause more problems than it solves:
Data on each vehicle — its time-stamped image, license plate imprint and radiological signature — would be sent to a command center in Lower Manhattan, where it would be indexed and stored for at least a month as part of a broad security plan that emphasizes protecting the city’s financial district, the spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said.
In other news, we need better icebreakers (or Exalted Yankee Liberty Devices, as I prefer to call them) if we're going to keep the goddamn Russkies away from the North Pole:
Russia -- which last year planted a titanium flag under the North Pole, claiming 460,000 square miles of Arctic waters -- "has 20 icebreakers in its fleet, seven of them nuclear powered, including the largest ice-breaking vessel in the world," Homeland Security Today observes. Of the Coast Guard’s three polar icebreakers, two have outlived their originally designed service lives of 30 years.

The third sets sail this week, Reuters notes, "to determine the extent of the continental shelf north of Alaska and map the ocean floor, data that could be used for oil and natural gas exploration." And maybe claim some turf for America, too.
(Illustration at top by Bruce McCall.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Friday, August 08, 2008

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

The purple of Ceratosoma willani glimmers,
into following coloures of jewels,
Sharp Blue Diamond that turquious the uncertain shapes,
Rocky timber of Bleeding cut ray marble Hues
Of crystal spring sunlight stairs, the Dirty Blinding cut glass,
[ ]tuby orange Faded tissue moist uneven Stones,
[ ]eep sky frail cloudless light turkey cerealean - through paper glass,
[ ]ell rainbows - Brilliant - Blinding Pink, of Disk thin size,
[ ]oem in creamy white pearls, in a platinum strings,
A mass of chips that demand palatte complete
Brown rough gold nuggest - For framing safety

(Photo by Raymond™.)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Friday Hope Blogging

First and foremost, the odious Phill Kline has been defeated:

A political newcomer knocked Phill Kline out of the race for Johnson County district attorney Tuesday, defeating the hopes of abortion opponents who had campaigned nationwide.
If Kline has any thought of moving to a country where his beliefs would pose less of an obstacle to professional advancement, he could try Iran...although it, too, is showing signs of creeping liberalism:
Iran's judiciary has decided to scrap the punishment of stoning convicts to death in draft legislation submitted to parliament for approval, the local press reported on Wednesday.
In Illinois, perpetrators of domestic violence will be made to wear a GPS device:
Diane Rosenfeld, a lawyer who worked to add GPS monitoring to Massachusetts state law, told Ms. Magazine that a key aspect of GPS legislation is that it places responsibility for following orders of protection on the offender rather than the victim. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich stated that "with this legislation, we will further help victims of domestic violence by monitoring their abusers whereabouts and aiding law enforcement in tracking violations of a restraining order."
The owners of a meatpacking plant in Postville, IA — which was recently the scene of a brutal roundup of immigrant workers — are being charged for violating child-labor laws:
The state's investigation found dozens of violations from "virtually every aspect of Iowa's child labor laws," said Dave Neil the Iowa Labor Commissioner. Officials also said the scope of the case -- with 57 children involved -- makes it unusually large....

Under Iowa law, it is illegal for children under the age of 18 to work in a meatpacking plant. Neil said he was recommending "that the attorney general's office prosecute these violations to the fullest extent of the law."
The Birkenstock-shod ecofreaks at Maker's Mark have decided to run their distillery on bourbon waste:
The anaerobic digestion facility installed by waste management provider Ecovation will process stillage - the water, grain and yeast waste leftover from making bourbon - and produce a methane and carbon dioxide biogas for use in the distillery's boilers.
I'll drink to that, as soon as my doctor allows me to have alcohol again.

Brazil is talking about restricting ethanol production in one of the world's largest wetlands:
Under the proposal no new ethanol plants will be allowed in the Patanal’s plains and sugar cane planters already in the region will be required to use direct, no-till planting methods, thereby eliminating machinery and agrochemicals from the cultivation process, according to ministry statements.
Australia has turned its largest tropical rainforest into a park:
The forest houses 57 percent of Australia's butterflies and is seen by scientists as a critical refuge for biodiversity against the impact of climate change.
California will launch an interesting experiment in carbon farming:
Long-standing farming practices in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta expose fragile peat soils to wind, rain and cultivation, emit carbon dioxide (CO2) and cause land subsidence (the land actually sinks due to the loss of ground water). Industrial farming has been a disaster to this area, in order to capture or contain the carbon, farmers would “grow” wetlands. In doing so, they would begin to rebuild the Delta’s unique peat soils, take CO2 out of the atmosphere, ease pressure on the Delta’s aging levees and infuse the region with new economic potential.

Carbon-capture farming works as CO2 is taken out of the air by plants such as tules and cattails. As the plants die and decompose, they create new peat soil, building the land surface over time.
The world's smallest snake has been found in Barbados:
"New and interesting species are still being discovered on Caribbean islands, despite the very small amount of natural forests remaining," said Hedges, who christened the miniature brown snake "Leptotyphlops carlae" after his herpetologist wife, Carla Ann Hass.

And researchers in Africa have discovered a huge colony of endangered gorillas:
The world's known population of critically endangered western lowland gorillas has more than doubled following a new census that revealed some 125,000 in the Republic of Congo.

The survey, conducted across conducted in an area of 18,000 square miles of rainforests and swamps by the Wildlife Conservation Society and local researchers, offers new hope for one of the world's most charismatic endangered species.
Incidentally, Greg Pollowitz at Planet Gore mocks the "scientists" — those are his quotes, not mine — who made this discovery while working in this remote and dangerous area, on the grounds that since they previously "botched" these numbers, they might be wrong about...others.

Indeed, no one really knows anything, when you come right down to it, except that Doomsday has been canceled due to lack of interest (and that not voting in favor of offshore drilling raises oil prices).

Pollowitz also recommends getting a more accurate census of polar bears, presumably so that we can know exactly how many of them are threatened by habitat loss, and then ignore that number.

What's that you say? Oh, right...hope blogging.

This is a nice idea:
What if instead of standard streetlights your nighttime walks were brightened by light-laden boughs of luminous leaves? That’s the concept behind Jongoh Lee’s elegant Invisible Streetlight, a solar-powered alternative to those ubiquitous energy-sucking globes posted throughout parks and other public spaces. The lamps are designed to wind around existing branches, seamlessly integrating into their environs to enchanting effect. The design makes a wonderful addition to the current crop of beautiful biomimetic led lamps.

It may be possible to make rubber out of dandelions:
According to new research being done in Ohio, dandelion root sap could be made into a rubber of equal quality to traditional rubber from trees, at a lower cost.
An MIT chemist's discovery may make it easier and cheaper to store solar energy:
Daniel Nocera, a professor of chemistry at MIT, has developed a catalyst that can generate oxygen from a glass of water by splitting water molecules. The reaction frees hydrogen ions to make hydrogen gas. The catalyst, which is easy and cheap to make, could be used to generate vast amounts of hydrogen using sunlight to power the reactions. The hydrogen can then be burned or run through a fuel cell to generate electricity whenever it’s needed, including when the sun isn’t shining.
A compound derived from cyanobacteria that grow on coral reefs may treat cancer:
Many common medications, from pain relievers to cholesterol-reducing statins, stem from natural products that grow on the earth, but there is literally an ocean of compounds yet to be discovered in our seas. Only 14 marine natural products developed are in clinical trials today, Luesch said, and one drug recently approved in Europe is the first-ever marine-derived anticancer agent.

"Marine study is in its infancy," said William Fenical, Ph.D., a distinguished professor of oceanography and pharmaceutical sciences at the University of California, San Diego. "The ocean is a genetically distinct environment and the single, most diverse source of new molecules to be discovered."
In conclusion: A representation of earth without its surface. A somewhat disturbing, but certainly unique spectacle. Four pieces of strange and wonderful news. A collection of hold-to-light opera cards. And, via Coudal, a reassuring message from The Journal of Urban Typography:

Also: The diabolical imagery and visual curiosities of Alexander Ver Huell. The colors of scenic stones and vintage fez labels. And some paintings by John Haberle.

Newsfilm Online comprises "3,000 hours of UK cinema newsreel and television news content, dating 1910s-2000s" (via The Bioscope). But you may never make it there, thanks to this exquisitely beautiful collection of fruit wrappers.

I'll leave you with some slow-motion footage of lightning (via Neatorama).


(Photo at top via Stuck in Customs.)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Testing and Retesting

Planet Gore's Drew Thornley is irked with "Harvard’s John Holdren" for arguing that the global warming debate is over, and for not showing quite the proper respect to "those who question the inevitably catastrophic effects of anthropogenic global warming."

Holdren criticizes “skeptics” for their lack of scientific proof and lack of scientific credentials, yet he offers not an ounce of scientific proof for his own position.
Perhaps that's because this is an opinion piece about skeptics and their tactics, rather than a primer on climatology? Seems like a good working hypothesis to me.

Thornley complains that Holdren — who's the director of Woods Hole Research Center, for whatever that's worth — namedrops a gaggle of scientific bodies that accept AGW, but his counterargument is even more skeletal: he simply says that "much has been written on PG and elsewhere about the growing numbers who question AGW theory."

It's not clear to me why Holdren isn't allowed to prop up his claim of consensus with evidence of that consensus, while Thornley can essentially say "go fish!" to his own readers.

To be fair, this may be because I don't understand the difference between the "politicians and professors" who foolishly accept AGW, and the "scientists" and "policymakers" who wisely reject it.
Well, I guess that settles it. Science is not advanced or settled by the testing and retesting of hypotheses but rather by how many politicians and professors join in your theory.
It looks as though Thornley is implying that the theory in question has not been tested and retested. If so, I'm sure that "much has been written on PG and elsewhere" to justify this claim.
Holdren’s piece is in step with the repeated assertions that “the debate is over,” that a “scientific consensus” has been reached
So those scientists who claim that a scientific consensus has been reached agree that a scientific consensus has been reached. Shocking proof of collusion! If they were honest, they'd admit that their knowledge is atomized and incomprehensible, and refrain from advancing any theory that couldn't be confirmed by a close reading of Atlas Shrugged.

You'll never guess what all this talk of "consensus" proves:
Holdren’s piece is just another example of why we need a real climate debate.
And how will we know when we've had a real climate debate, after the last two decades of languid dilettantism? When AGW stands revealed as a neo-Marxist fraud, natch! Or, failing that, once action has been staved off long enough that it's no longer feasible.

Personally, I find it kind of compelling that AGW is widely accepted despite the fact that it's neither reassuring, nor anticipated in The Road to Serfdom, nor useful as an incentive for thoughtless hyperconsumption.

But of course that's sentiment talking, not intellect.

(Illustration at top by Martin Sharman, via Carbon Planet.)

Tech-Savvy Smart Alecks

You might think that taking up arms against the Culture of Victimhood is all jam and Jerusalem. But in fact, it carries many daunting personal risks, including the grave and gathering threat of censorship-related program activities.

Candace de Russy lifts a rag soaked with rubber-cement thinner to her nostrils, takes a deep, shuddering breath, and explains:

CUNY Professor Mitchell Langbert and other bloggers critical of Senator Obama's presidential run (notably Pamela Geller of popular "Atlas Shrugs") are accusing the senator's supporters of intentionally identifying their blog addresses to Google as spam blogs, reports the New York Sun. They also claim the company reflexively froze the sites.

"These tech-savvy smart alecks have figured out that if you report a blog you don't like, you can do some damage to a person," Langbert said.

Bloggers of the world, unite. We have only our free speech and growing political clout to lose.
Right on, sister! These bloggers totally ought to be able to, like, speak Truth to Power without getting hassled by the Man.

The fact that countless communistic and sexually perverted and God-hating bloggers had the same problem -- and that Google recently identified its own blog as a spam site, and deleted it -- just goes to show how treacherous these "tech-savvy smart alecks" really are: They've created an artificial layer of misleading historical artifacts, much as God did with fossils, in order to make their cold-blooded attack on Pamela Geller and Mitchell Langbert seem like an ordinary technical glitch of the sort that gave rise to the colloquialism "bloggered."

It's impossible to overstate the seriousness of this problem. When these blogs went down, there was no substantive criticism of Barack Obama to be had anywhere on the Intertubes, for tens of hours! The Em Ess Em's hegemony was total and terrifying; had the situation not been resolved quickly, the world might never have known that Barack Obama is a neo-Marxist Muslim who wants to force us to check our tire pressure, instead of letting the market decide. Lord knows you'll never hear a word of it on the television!

In related news, some guy called 911 'cause Subway made his sandwich wrong.

(Illustration at top by Ron Turner.)

Monday, August 04, 2008

Tactical Dangers

Fred Hiatt is troubled once again by the irrationality of the Left:

I was more struck by...Obama's statements that McCain and the Republican Party are so bankrupt in policies that they can win only by spreading fear.

This resonates with an article of faith among many Democratic believers that has been so long and deeply held it is hardly considered noteworthy....
Speaking of which, Dick Morris and Eileen McGann, whose most recent book is rather exhaustingly titled Fleeced: How Barack Obama, Media Mockery of Terrorist Threats, Liberals Who Want To Kill Talk Radio, The Do-Nothing Congress, Companies That Help Iran, And Washington Lobbyists For Foreign Governments Are Scamming Us...And What To Do About It, have an urgent message for John McCain:
McCain needs to make voters afraid of Obama....Oil drilling is an issue, but it does not provoke the fear that the McCain campaign needs to elicit to win.
Getting back to Hiatt, he suspects that accusing GOP politicians of "manipulat[ing] cultural symbols" in order to win elections will infuriate voters who don't think they've been manipulated:
Whatever the substantive merits of this analysis, it seems to pose some tactical dangers to Democratic candidates. One is the risk of offending voters who may not see themselves as easily tricked or too dim to understand where their interests lie....
This, you'll agree, is a vigorous attack against elitism. 'Cause everyone who matters knows that the Plain People of America have neither the ability nor the desire to measure Republican rhetoric against reality (or delusion, for that matter). You might as well ask them to keep their tires inflated!

I don't doubt that there are voters out there who fit Hiatt's description; whether Obama ever had any hope of winning over "middle-class voters who believe passionately that life begins at conception" is another matter.

More to the point, it's impossible to imagine a Democratic position that doesn't "pose some tactical dangers," by Hiatt's standards. Hell, positions are usually the least of a Democratic candidate's worries. Tactical errors Obama has recently committed include ordering orange juice in a diner, bowling improperly, having live music at campaign appearances, using German-language posters in Germany, and reminding Maureen Dowd of a Jane Austen character. If Obama took a stand in favor of vanilla fudge ice cream, he'd immediately be accused of advocating black separatism. It doesn't much matter what Obama says, in these circles, because it's Obama who's saying it.

That being the case, I really don't see that he has much to lose by pointing out that GOP rhetoric serves pretty much the same purpose as a pickpocket's apology for bumping into you on the subway.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Friday, August 01, 2008

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

Friday Hope Blogging

A week in which Ted Stevens is indicted for corruption ought to be cheery enough for anyone...but as I've said before, there's no harm in gilding the lily.

One of Stevens' many pet peeves was the Cape Wind project, which, by an amazing coincidence, has scored yet another legal victory:

The Pawa law firm and the Global Warming Legal Action Project have scored a major victory in the Cape Wind case. Today the Energy Facilities Siting Board (”EFSB”) rejected nearly all of the arguments by the opponents of Cape Wind to dismiss the EFSB case filed by Cape Wind.
I'm thinking it may be time for Stevens to get himself a new tie.

Fifty Catholic organizations have asked the Pope to lift the church's ban on contraception:
The open letter to the Pope, published in Italy's Corriere della Sera, noted, "When Pope Paul VI cemented the Catholic hierarchy's ban on contraception in 1968, he overrode the findings of a group of experts he had himself chosen." Today, experts and Catholics around the world oppose the ban.

"Humanae Vitae continues to be a source of great conflict and division in the church. Catholics and non-Catholics alike continue to feel the impact of the Catholic hierarchy's devastating policy," the letter states, noting, "The impact of the ban has been particularly disastrous in the global south, and because the Catholic hierarchy holds significant sway over many national family planning policies, it obstructs the implementation of good public health policies on family planning and HIV prevention."
Pacific Gas and Electric has pledged that it will donate $250,000 to defeat California's Proposition 8, which would amend the state constitution to make same-sex marriage illegal:
Company officials also indicated they would attempt to garner support from other companies to defeat the anti-gay measure by assembling a business advisory council on the matter.
A federal judge has ruled that a Florida school must allow students to form a Gay-Straight Alliance:
Students do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate," Judge K. Michael Moore said in his written ruling.
In other legal news, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that "aliens challenging deportation cannot be imprisoned for long periods without a bail hearing."

Pwoje Espwa has been helping Haitians to make charcoal briquettes out of vegetable waste:
We use the stalks of corn along with vertiver and end up with this which lasts longer than regular charcoal. It is economical and ecological as we don’t contribute to the huge problem of deforestation here....The idea is based on Doctor Amy Smith’s (MIT) D-Lab work. We now have a team of 16 working on making these briquettes and freeing us from super-expensive propane and regular charcoal.
Link via AIDG Blog. There's more on briquette-making at AfriGadget.

Academic institutions are working to find and save ancient documents in Timbuktu:
An astonishing project is underway in Timbuktu, Mali, one of the world's poorest countries. On the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, experts are opening an enchanted Aladdin's Cave, filled with hundreds of thousands of ancient documents.

The Ahmed Baba Library alone contains more than 20,000 manuscripts, including works on herbal medicine and mathematics, yellowed volumes of poetry, music and Islamic law. Some are adorned with gilded letters, while others are written in the language of the Tuareg tribes. The contents remain a mystery.

Manuscript hunters are now scouring the environs of Timbuktu, descending into dark, clay basements and climbing up into attics. Twenty-four family-owned collections have already been discovered in the area.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is reviewing its logging contracts:
Many contracts are expected to be cancelled outright by a review panel made up of government officials and independent experts.

"What I'm hoping for is fewer concessions. What I'm hoping for is more revenues for the state. What I'm hoping for is better management of the forestry sector," Environment Minister Jose Endundu told reporters on Wednesday.
They'll definitely want to take a close look at this one:
A major European logging company is using an elaborate profit-laundering system to smuggle timber revenue out of Africa and avoid paying taxes to the governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of the Congo, alleges a new report published by Greenpeace.

Danzer Group, a German-owned and Swiss-based logging firm, has swindled the governments out of 7.8 million euros in tax revenue, says the report.
An endangered fruit bat was born in the Bronx Zoo:
Rodriguez bats have a wingspan of about 3 feet and are among the largest bats in the world. They are listed as critically endangered with only an estimated 5,000 individuals left in the wild. There are about 350 individuals in zoos world-wide.
Photo by Julie Larsen Maher

A new type of concrete allegedly sucks CO2 out of the air. If this is actually true, we're all gonna die, 'cause -- all together now -- CO2 is life!:
As concrete is used more than any other man made material on earth, (the Chinese alone consume 40%!), and concrete is responsible for upwards of 5% of global CO2 emissions, any amount of increase carbon storage in concrete would make a difference. So if Carbon Sense can really deliver as they say it can in Technology Review, the process “has the potential to sequester or avoid 20% of all cement-industry carbon dioxide emissions.”
TerraCycle makes things out of garbage, and packages them in containers made from garbage. As you might imagine, their work is easier if they can get the garbage they need before it winds up in a landfill. Accordingly, they're willing to pay cold hard cash for every cookie wrapper, drink pouch, soda bottle, and used cork you can send 'em. Click here to get involved.

Los Angeles is the latest city to ban plastic bags:
LA consumers use some 2.3 billion bags. Only about 5 percent of those plastic bags are recycled, leaving the remainder to swirl in the winds and tides posing a hazard to wildlife and humans. The city is also stepping it up with a ban on Styrofoam at city facilities by 2009.
Zoologists are using tangles of barbed wire and mp3s of bird calls in an attempt to save the cactus wren:
Setting an iPod to coastal cactus wren, the scientists will broadcast a series of "char, char, char" notes. If they are lucky, a brown-and-white bird will flit out of the brush and perhaps make the tangle of piping and barbed wire its home. Olson's fake cholla are part of a last-ditch effort to save the coastal cactus wren. It's a manmade solution to a manmade problem -- frequent wildland fires.
Photo by Jarek Tuszynski

Graffiti for Butterflies alerts migrating monarch butterflies to the presence of urban food sources:
Monarchs regularly pass through wide swathes of human settlement as they migrate each year from wintering sites in Mexico to summering grounds in the United States and Canada. GFB is the equivalent of a fast-food sign on a highway, advertising rest stops (waystations) to monarchs traveling through the area.
Link via things.

Almost 180,000 square miles of the Bering Sea will be protected from bottom trawling:
The National Marine Fisheries Service announced Friday that nearly 180,000 square miles of the Bering Sea will be closed to destructive bottom trawling to protect important seafloor habitats and marine life effective August 25, 2008. These in-the-water protections reflect an approach first developed by Oceana, and supported by local communities and other conservation organizations, that freezes the current area, or "footprint," where trawling already occurs in the Bering Sea and prevents trawlers from expanding into previously untrawled areas.
AfriGadget discusses keyhole gardens:
Keyhole gardens are a technique used to grow vegetables in a dry climate. They are actually a special form of raised bed gardens: circular waist high raised beds with a path to the center. Walled in by stones, there’s a basket made from sticks and straw in the center that holds manure and other organic kitchen waste for compost.

Oregon's Sandy River is responding well to the demolition of Marmot Dam:
Some had worried that sediment piled behind the dam would suffocate salmon and block tributaries downstream. It did nothing of the sort. In fact, the river has since digested the equivalent of about 150 Olympic-size swimming pools full of sediment -- without a hiccup....

Scientists were especially impressed with how rapidly the river scoured the sediment away. Some models predicted the river would need two to five years to carry off half the sediment pile, but it did so in months.
(Link via ErinPDX, a fellow member of the Eschatonian Dam-Haters Club.)

Light rail is expanding in the Southwest:
[W]hen Phoenix opens its first light-rail line, this station will anchor a huge regional transit system that will stretch north to Glendale and east to Mesa and Tempe. It's a $1.4 billion, 20-mile catapult into transit — no other light-rail system in the country has been so large right from its inception.
10.3 billion trips were taken on public transportation last year — the highest number in more than 50 years. By far the biggest increase was in the number of trips on light rail, which saw more than a 10 percent jump in ridership. Several cities' light-rail and streetcar systems grew even faster. Baltimore, Minneapolis, St. Louis and San Francisco all experienced significant growth in passenger loads.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette explains how the Great Allegheny Passageway -- a hiking and biking trail -- has revitalized nearby communities:
An economic impact study conducted in 2007 determined the trail is generating $12.5 million in revenue and pouring more than $3 million in wages into trail-side communities.
After decades of preferring ideology to innovation, American utilities are visiting Germany to get a refresher course in the utterly fucking obvious:
Several major U.S. utility companies may accelerate plans to integrate solar power into their electricity mix following a fact-finding trip to Germany.

Twenty-three electric utilities were represented on the trip to Germany, the world's leading producer and installer of photovoltaic (PV) solar cells. All of them may now advance solar projects in the United States, a trip leader said, further expanding a growing solar market.
Great idea! Wish I'd thought of that.

In related news, San Francisco's Grace Cathedral is switching over to solar power:
The state-of-the-art photovoltaic system would be designed and supplied by SolarCity, a company with a vast experience of solar system design and installation. A partnership between the cathedral and Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) would be instrumental in financing the entire project. The Pacific Gas and Electric would provide $65,000 for the purchase and installation of the photovoltaic. It was the hard work of Reverend Canon Sally Bingham, the president of California Interfaith Power and Light that initiated the deal between Grace Cathedral and PG&E.
A Japanese company is manufacturing pholtovoltaic windowpanes that provide enough power to run a computer or charge a cell phone.
The windows are not quite as cheap as one would hope, each square meter will set you back around $1900. However, each window will generate around 70 watts per square meter, which can be delivered via a USB cable to your device. As an added bonus, the tint created by the embedded photovoltaics means that the windows will let less heat and sunlight into your house and help save more energy (and money) for cooling your house down.
Spain hopes to put 1 million electric vehicles on its roads by 2014:
The Plan, which Spain’s Council of Ministers are expected to approve August 1, will be enacted this year and carry on through 2011. Spain will save between 5.8 and 6.4 million tons of oil over the three-year period as a result, according to industry ministry estimates.
Toronto will pay its citizens for coming up with innovative approaches to reducing the city's greenhouse emissions:
The city’s mayor, David Miller, indicated that Toronto needs all the help it can get to achieve its ambitious plans. The mayor was quoted in the Toronto Star commenting that “the plan’s success depends on residents creating change.”
Speaking of Toronto, here are some Canadian Landscapes. And here's a nice photo by Kerry-Ann Lecky Hepburn of the Milky Way over Ontario.

See also Moon Games.

You might want to take a look at this nice collection of photos by Leon Lewandowski (see also here). And ponder the imaginary state of Winnemac.

If you think campaign ads are bad now, get a load of this 1952 offering from Adlai Stevenson (via Good):

I highly recommend opening this video in three windows at once, so that the soundtracks overlap. calls itself "the camel hub of the Web." You can decide for yourself whether it's earned the right to make this claim, and announce your determination in Victorian back slang.

I'm shocked to learn that computers are now capable of making Garfield funny. Surely the Singularity is near!

Last, The Bioscope has helpfully compiled a list of silent film collections online, which includes two archives that were new and thrilling to me. australian screen "is a look at the Australian film and television industry, from its earliest days to the present." WildFilmHistory "is a fascinating online guide to the pioneering people and landmark productions behind one hundred years of wildlife filmmaking."

Apropos of which, here's "Rough Sea at Dover," from 1895.

(Photo at top by Galina Lukyanov, via wood s lot.)