Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Hope Blogging

An increasing number of legal groups are calling on the California Supreme Court to strike down Prop. 8:

Los Angeles County Bar Association President Danette Meyers said that the question of whether a protected class may be barred from enjoying a fundamental right based on a bare majority vote is a matter of statewide importance.

“The implications of the question are wide-reaching; if the majority can relegate disfavored minorities to second class citizenship via the initiative process, no fundamental rights are safe,” said Meyers.
The House has risked the wrath of Ayn Rand's galvanized corpse by voting to expand healthcare programs for children:
With enthusiastic support from President-elect Barack Obama, the House on Wednesday passed a bill to expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program. President Bush twice had vetoed similar legislation.

Mr. Obama will probably be able to sign the bill within days of taking office on Tuesday. The Senate might take action within a week.
This is a nice idea:
The Extraordinaries turns spare time into social good by delivering volunteer opportunities, on-demand, to mobile phones, which can be performed on mobile phones in 20 minutes or less.
In Spain, trains are becoming more and more popular:
Air travel has been so big that the route linking Madrid and Barcelona was the busiest in the world in 2007 with 971 departures per week. That started to change in February when the government joined the two cities, which are 410 miles apart, with a high-speed line that cut travel time to 2 hours and 35 minutes. Other lines have opened or are in the works, each of them carrying AVE trains capable of 220 mph, and they're stealing passengers from airlines.
Greenpeace, meanwhile, is stealing runways from airlines:
Environmental campaigners say they have dealt a blow to the proposed expansion of London's Heathrow Airport by buying up land earmarked for the construction of a controversial third runway.

Greenpeace said the purchase of a field next to the airport threw a "massive spanner" into the plans, which were being considered by the UK government on Tuesday morning amid speculation that a decision to authorize the expansion may be delayed.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld Los Angeles' ban on billboards:
A federal appellate court issued a ruling Tuesday upholding Los Angeles' citywide billboard ban, handing a rare victory to the city in its uphill battle to regulate outdoor signs.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the city's 2002 outdoor advertising ban does not violate a sign company's 1st Amendment right to free speech, reversing a lower-court ruling.
In related news, California lawmakers have proposed a two-year ban on digital billboards:
The proposal comes a month after L.A. adopted a three-month ban on all billboards and follows a decision by the Federal Highway Administration to launch a multimillion-dollar study to determine whether the changing electronic messages pose a road hazard.
While we're on the subject of civic beautification, Subtopia has a nice post on mural-painting on Iraqi blast walls, and the possibility of finding a positive use for these barriers.
Tragic as it may be to say, the blast wall galleries are actually gorgeous. I realize that’s probably a controversial statement to the degree that such walls could ever be considered ‘gorgeous,’ but with all due respect the local artists (known as Jamaat al-Jidaar, or "the Walls Group") I think they have more than met the grim realities of the concrete barriers with triumphant spirit – if these imperial bricks could ever be reclaimed by those they lord over then I would say many of Baghdad’s inserted walls have been.
The DoD has taken steps to limit the revolving door between government and defense contractors:
Congress spoke (Sec. 847) and the Department of Defense (DoD) acted by putting out a revolving door interim rule for public comment.

The rule will require covered DoD officials (Certain Executive Schedule, Senior Executive Service, and general or flag officer positions) to obtain a post-employment ethics opinion before accepting a paid position from a DoD contractor within two years after they leave DoD service. It will also require that DoD contractors ensure that new hires have an ethics opinion. Failure to do so could result in canceling the contract, suspension, or debarment.
Next, a few introductions are in order. A pink iguana has been discovered in the Galápagos:
"What's surprising is that a new species of megafauna, like a large lizard, may still be [found] in a well-studied archipelago," Gentile told National Geographic News.

The Hispaniolan solenodon was rediscovered in Haiti:
The Hispaniolan solenodon has only one living relative, the Cuban solenodon, which Turvey describes as “only distantly related”. Both species are often referred to as a ‘living fossils’ since they are essentially a windows into the early mammals of the Cretaceous.

The solenodon is unique in more ways than outward appearance. “They are the only living mammal species that are able to inject venom through specially modified teeth, similar to the way that snakes inject venom – a very unusual adaptation for a mammal!” explains Turvey. While there are other venomous mammals, including two species of shrews and the male duckbill platypus, they are capable of only passively conveying venom; shrews' venom resides in their saliva and duckbill platypuses possess a poisonous claw on their hind leg.

And an odd "chirruping Purple Frog" has been captured on film for the first time:
Discovered only in 2003, the unique purple frog has been captured on film for the first time in India’s Western Ghats. A team of biologists from the University of Delhi, led by Dr. Sathyabhama Das Biju, captured several seconds of film of the frog running swiftly while calling for a mate with a distinct squeak.

The frog evaded discovery for so long, because it spends the majority of its life buried up to four meters underground, only surfacing for a few weeks during India’s monsoon to mate. This is not the only aspect of the species that makes it notable however: the purple frog comprises an entirely new family of amphibian.

In addition, 17 new species of reptiles and amphibians were discovered in Tanzania:
“These results, documenting the high species richness and the outstanding number of putative endemics of the forests, strongly highlight the biological importance of the South Nguru Mountains and place them among the most important sites for the conservation of herpetofauna in Africa,” wrote Menegon and Nike Doggart, a co-author of a report published in the journal Acta Herpetologica.
The black abalone has gained protection under the ESA, which is no mean feat, these days:
The federal government today designated the black abalone as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. The action comes in response to a formal administrative petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity in December 2006, which sought protection of the species. The black abalone — an intertidal mollusk historically ranging from near the California/Oregon border to Cape San Lucas, Baja California — has declined by as much as 99 percent in most of its range.
The climate skeptic Roy Spencer has launched an inadvertant but harrowing attack on the Inhofe 650 (or whatever the number is at this point):
Roy has clearly disqualified virtually every member of Inhofe's list of 650 "experts" who dismiss the IPCC's view of climate science. Not only are the Inhofe 650 members not experts on climate feedbacks, but also most of them are not experts on any aspect of the climate.
The real punchline here is that the indefatigable Inhofe stooge Marc Morano sent Spencer's comments out in a mass e-mail. Teach the controversy!

The photo at the top comes from Micscape's article on William Gatrell (1864-1902), Victorian Era Microscope Specimen Mounter. They have a new issue out here, with lots of other fascinating photos and information.

Once you're finished there, you can examine these frozen soap bubbles (via Plep), and this gallery of tilt-shift photos and videos (via things).

A huge underground lake has been found in Hungary. Was this foretold in The Ripley Scroll? The answer may lie in a small collection of albumen photomontages with watercolor embellishment.

It occurs to me that it's sunny outside; it's time I ran along. Here's your movie.

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