Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Hope Blogging

Village chiefs in Sierra Leone have banned ritual genital cutting in girls under 18:

In Sierra Leone village chiefs, community members and women who perform female genital cutting have signed an agreement stating that girls in northern Kambia district will not undergo genital mutilation – or ‘cutting’ – before age 18.

The number of girls being cut during the December 2008-January 2009 initiation season in Kambia dropped drastically, according to Finda Fraser, advocacy coordinator at local non-profit Advocacy Movement Network (AMNet), which runs a ‘Say No to Child Bondo’ campaign in the district....

Putting off the initiation ritual could also reduce early marriage and pregnancy, said Thomas Karu, chairman of the school management committee in Makuma village, Bombali district, 130km from the capital Freetown. Once initiated, girls are considered fully grown women, so they often fall pregnant or marry and inevitably drop out of school.
The FDA will expand access to Plan B:
On March 23, 2009, a federal court issued an order directing the FDA, within 30 days, to permit the Plan B drug sponsor to make Plan B available to women 17 and older without a prescription. The government will not appeal this decision.
I rarely have occasion to report positively on Dianne Feinstein, so I may as well make the most of the opportunity:
A bill introduced on the house floor yesterday by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) is keeping Jay Mercado, her partner Shirley Tan and their twin 12-year-olds together - at least for now.

Mercado, an American woman and Tan, her Filipino partner, live in Pacifica, California with their 12-year-old twin sons, both American citizens. Tan had been ordered to appear for deportation on May 10, but the emergency bill will keep the family together at least through 2010. Federal immigration law does not currently allow LGBT Americans to sponsor their partners.
California will limit emissions from vehicle fuels:
The regulation requires producers, refiners and importers of gasoline and diesel to reduce the carbon footprint of their fuel by 10% over the next decade. And it launches the state on an ambitious path toward ratcheting down its overall heat-trapping emissions by 80% by mid-century -- a level that some scientists deem necessary to avoid drastic global climate disruption.
The EPA has reinstated strict Toxic Release Inventory standards:
"People have a right to information that might affect their health and the health of their children -- and EPA has a responsibility to provide it," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "Restoring the TRI reporting requirements assures transparency and provides a crucial tool for safeguarding human health and the environment in our communities."

The final rule reinstates Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) reporting requirements that were replaced by the TRI Burden Reduction Rule in December 2006. The 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act, signed by President Obama on March 11, 2009, mandated that prior TRI reporting requirements be reestablished.
The House has passed two important conservation bills:
The US House of Representatives passed today, the 39th Earth Day, two bills that would aid some of the world’s most embattled wildlife: the Great Cats and Rare Canids Act (H.R. 411) and the Crane Conservation Act (H.R. 388).

Approved by a vote of 290 to 118, the Great Cats and Rare Canids Act protects twelve species of wild cats and dogs globally, including leopards, cheetahs, snow leopards, and African wild dogs. Building on the existing Multinational Species Conservation Funds, the bill aims to lessen poaching and smuggling, protect critical habitat, and support education related to these charismatic species in their home countries. If enacted, the bill will provide additional funding to private conservation organizations by as much as three to one. The Great Cats and Rare Canids Act was sponsored by Congressman Jay Inslee from Washington state.
There's slightly better news than we're used to from Afghanistan:
War-wearied Afghanis received uplifting news on Earth Day this year. Their government has announced the creation of the nation’s first national park, Band-e-Amir, protecting a one-of-a-kind landscape encompassing six sky-blue lakes separated by natural dams.

Announced by Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) at a ceremony in the FAO Building at the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock in Kabul this morning, key funding for the park was provided by The United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
You can see some nice pictures here.

Some of Australia's coral reefs have made an amazing comeback after a massive bleaching event:
Marine scientists say they are astonished at the spectacular recovery of certain coral reefs in Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park from a devastating coral bleaching event in 2006.

That year high sea temperatures caused massive and severe coral bleaching in the Keppel Islands, in the southern part of the GBR. The damaged reefs were quickly smothered by a single species of seaweed — an event that can spell the total loss of the corals.

However, a lucky combination of rare circumstances meant the reefs were able to achieve a spectacular recovery, with abundant corals re-established in a single year, says Dr Guillermo Diaz-Pulido....
Ontario has enacted the strictest pesticide bill in Canada:
Ontario is joining Quebec in restricting the use of pesticides, but its rules go further by prohibiting the sale and cosmetic use of more than 80 ingredients and 250 products, with few exceptions, experts say.

Other provinces are considering similar restrictions to protect the environment and public health, including British Columbia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, said Lisa Gue of the David Suzuki Foundation.
An oil and gas consortium has agreed to stop seismic testing in an important feeding ground for Western Gray whales:
A major oil and gas consortium has agreed to suspend planned seismic testing off Sakhalin Island in the Russian Far East, a crucial feeding area for the critically endangered Western Gray whale.

The decision followed a recommendation today by a major international scientific panel to halt further oil and gas development in and around the feeding area of the Western Gray Whale.
Researchers have found an additional 180 miles of the Great Wall of China.
The Great Wall of China is even greater than once thought, after a two-year government mapping study uncovered new sections totalling about 180 miles, according to a report posted on the website of the country's national mapping agency.

Using infrared range finders and GPS devices, experts discovered portions of the wall concealed by hills, trenches and rivers that stretch from Hu Shan mountain in northern Liaoning province to Jiayu Pass in western Gansu province, the official China Daily reported on Monday.
Furthermore: The Blaska Glass Flower Collection (via things). Art by Arthur Rackham. The facts about stilt fishing. Early works on architecture and urbanism. Pages from school exercise books of the twenties and thirties. Decaying lantern slides. Incredible photos of Saturn and its moons.

Birdseye maps of Michigan. A survey of Retro Media. Photos by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre. The University of Southern Mississippi's Items of the Month. Photographs by Eudora Welty. Vintage clothing labels (via Coudal). And The Nature of Utamuro.

Highlights of the 157th Acoustical Society Meeting. A photo-essay on the construction of the Stockwood Fill. Patagonia in Autumn: a short film. Iran in the 1970s (via Dark Roasted Blend). A collection of Egyptian lantern slides. And 15 images of the aurora australis.

In keeping with the astronomical quasi-theme, here's a lunar eclipse for you.

(Photo at top by Imre Kinszki, circa 1930.)


xan said...

Great as always. The story about the recovery of the corals from the bleaching incident I had heard nothing, zip nit nil nada, about so I am particularly grateful.

And the Saturn pictures too. Oh yeah. Them too.

Jazzbumpa said...

Good news for the girls in Sierra Leone, for a while, anyway. What happens when they reach 18? I shudder to think of it.

Phila said...

What happens when they reach 18? I shudder to think of it.

Same here. On the other hand, accepting some limits on the practice is a step towards doing away with it. It also seems possible that some of them may be able to choose not to go through with it...or at least, there's a better chance of that when they're 18 than when they're 12.

It's still really gruesome, though.

jazzbumpa said...

Well, I hope they have a choice. And maybe the passage of time will lead to better circumstances. This is a hope post, so let's hope for the best.

Libby Spencer said...

Friday hope blogging is like a sunny day after weeks of rain. This might possibily be the greatest public service on the internets. Thanks Phila.

Phila said...

Thanks, Libby. Comments like yours make me feel able to tackle it again next week.

Larkspur said...

I'm very hopeful after reading about the Sierra Leone news. Really, this is huge. This was grass-roots, and it's still evolving. I agree that it probably indicates the eventual end of cutting, or at the very least, when the young women are un-cut until they're 18, possibly replacing the whole excision with a small ritualistic mark.

Getting the older women practitioners on board is a real accomplishment. There's a lot of folklore about genital cutting, at least from what I've read about Africa. If girls grow up to be 18 without being cut, people will realize that women's labia will not actually grow down to their knees, nor will women go any crazier than they are already going, and possibly they will go less crazy.

Okay, maybe I'm not elated, but when it comes to genital cutting, I'm going to applaud even the smallest advances.

And Phila, I'm really thrilled by your Friday Hopes. I loves 'em and needs 'em.