Friday, September 04, 2009

Friday Hope Blogging

Activists are pressuring Verizon to withdraw its support from an utterly demented denialist hootenanny in West Virginia:

The Center for Biological Diversity is ramping up pressure on Verizon Wireless to withdraw its sponsorship of a coal-industry rally in West Virginia that is being held on Labor Day to promote mountaintop-removal coal mining and to oppose climate change legislation. In just two days, supporters from the Center and ally CREDO Action have sent more than 66,000 letters to Verizon asking the company to withdraw their sponsorship of the event. The Center anticipates that more than 100,000 letters will be submitted by concerned citizens by the end of the week.
If you're a Verizon customer, or know someone who is, please consider spreading the word. There's more info here.

A generic version of Plan B has been approved for OTC use:
The US Food and Drug Administration has approved emergency contraceptive Next Choice, a generic version of Plan B, for over-the-counter use. Next Choice, manufactured by Watson Pharmaceuticals, was first approved by the FDA for prescription use on June 24, according to the Pharmaceutical Business Review. Next Choice will be available over-the-counter to women ages 17 and older and with a prescription for women under 17 years old.
A Namibian city will soon hold its first gay-rights march:
About 40 people are expected to march in Keetmanshoop’s first-ever march for gay and lesbian rights on Saturday.

Keetmanshoop, in the southern part of Namibia, near the gay-friendly South Africa, is marking the inauguration of Ada Ma/Hao (We stand together), a new project advocating for equal rights for gender minorities in southern Namibia.
The United States has lifted most restrictions on family travel to Cuba:
The Treasury Department formally lifted nearly all U.S. restrictions on family travel to Cuba on Thursday, along with limits on how much money families can send to relatives on the island.

The department also eased regulations prohibiting U.S. telecommunications and satellite linkages between the United States and Cuba and licensing requirements for visitors engaged in agricultural and medical sales.

President Obama first announced most of the changes in April as part of a general opening that he said would allow Americans to reach out to the Cuban people, and he ordered Cabinet departments to take steps to implement the changes. Since then, the administration has also resumed a regular dialogue with the Cuban government on immigration issues and said it would move toward a resumption of direct mail service between the two countries.
A US court has ruled that the threat of forced marriage is grounds for reconsidering a woman's request for asylum:
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has ruled that a family’s threats to force their daughter into marriage if she returns to their native country of Pakistan qualify as “changed circumstances” under U.S. law and warrant a review of the woman’s asylum case.

“The Seventh Circuit’s decision recognizes that our client’s case should not be dismissed simply because the conditions of her persecution, as in many cases of gender-based violence, are not connected to a dramatic country-wide upheaval,” said Claudia Valenzuela, a managing attorney at Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center....
Access to microloans is improving the situation of women in Laos:
The women are provided with small loans, from between $50 - $175, at a low rate of interest,* that they invest in buying the materials and equipment needed for weaving en masse....

With so many villages and women involved in the scheme, they are able to connect small producers to potential large scale buyers - using the collective power of the villagers to demand fair prices.
China is increasing its transparency on environmental issues:
In 2006, Chinese environmentalist Ma Jun estimated that 100 cities nationwide provided no public data on water pollution.

Two years later, the Ministry of Environmental Protection authorized its Measures on Open Environmental Information, a new effort at public disclosure. The freedom-of-information law requires municipalities to provide details on which companies violated pollution regulations or caused large pollution incidents, as well as how much contamination these polluters discharged into the environment.

The measure has been implemented for a year, and cities across China are slowly becoming more forthright with environmental information, according to a study by U.S. and Chinese environmental groups.
Also, despite what shills for the coal industry are saying, China continues to be extremely interested in green technology:
The report from The Climate Group shows that China is leading the development and commercialization of a range of low carbon technologies. With a new breed of entrepreneurs and ambitious government policies, Chinese businesses are amongst the top producers of electric vehicles, wind turbines, solar panels and energy efficient appliances.
In the EU, greenhouse gas emissions declined for the fourth year in a row.
Emissions are now 6.2 percent below 1990 levels for the 15 older EU members. These counties have a target of reaching 8 percent below the 1990 level sometime between last year and 2012. EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said in a statement that with this newest drop the EU is on track to hit its target. However, he also added that "this trend needs to be further consolidated in the coming years."
Furthermore, the EU has banned incandescent lightbulbs, in a shocking act of intolerance that will remind all right-thinking observers of Hitler's persecution of the Jews.
From today, the manufacture and import of 100 watt bulbs and all frosted bulbs will be banned in the European Union.

The new rules mean that consumers will be able to buy only the more efficient long life fluorescent or halogen lamps.
Berlin's Templehof airport will soon become the city's largest park:
“Beginning in May the Tempelhof field will be open to all,” Berlin's urban development Senator Ingeborg Junge-Reyer said.

With an area of 230 hectares, the airfield park that straddles both the Kreuzberg and Neuk├Âlln districts will be significantly larger than Berlin’s famous Tiergarten park.
In Florida, habitat protections will be put in place for the smalltooth sawfish:
The federal government will protect critical habitat for the endangered smalltooth sawfish along the southwestern coast of Florida between Charlotte Harbor and Florida Bay. The rule, to be published in tomorrow’s Federal Register, comes in response to the settlement of a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity against the Bush administration for its delay in protecting habitat for several marine species at risk of extinction. The new rule will protect 840,472 acres of coastal habitat for the smalltooth sawfish.
Acacia trees may provide a cheap source of fertilizer for African farmers:
The tall, long-lived acacia tree Faidherbia albida could serve as a free source of long-lasting and crop-boosting nitrogen....

A nitrogen fixer, the tree species could limit the use of polluting chemical fertilizers while also providing animal feed, construction material, and even medicine for farmers across sub-Saharan Africa.
A new method of delivering painkillers has been developed for big cats:
The world's big cats are not easy patients, especially when trying to give them pain killers after a procedure. They will tear off transdermal patches; they are too powerful to restrain for easy—and safe—injections or pills; and when in pain they generally refuse food, making it impossible to hide the drugs in their dinner. Now, however, veterinarian researchers from Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo and the University of Tennessee believe they have found a solution: a surgically implanted, mini-pump that provides pain relief, and can be easily removed after the patient makes a full recovery.
A new nature reserve in Peru will protect over a million acres of rainforest:
On August 27th Peru's Ministry of the Environment approved the creation of the Matses National Reserve to protect the region's biodiversity, ensure its natural resources, and preserve the home of the Matses indigenous peoples (known as the Mayorunas in Brazil). The park is 1,039,390 acres of lowland Amazonian rainforest in eastern Peru.

The park is the culmination of over a decade of work by the local non-profit CEDIA (the Center for the Development of the Indigenous Amazonians) funded in large part by the World Land Trust-US.
Scientists at Stanford have created an open-source digital camera:
Stanford photo scientists are out to reinvent digital photography with the introduction of an open-source digital camera, which will give programmers around the world the chance to create software that will teach cameras new tricks.

If the technology catches on, camera performance will be no longer be limited by the software that comes pre-installed by the manufacturer. Virtually all the features of the Stanford camera – focus, exposure, shutter speed, flash, etc. – are at the command of software that can be created by inspired programmers anywhere.
Teh Russians seem to feel we're making progress on arms control:
Russia and the United States have made progress on reaching a new deal to cut vast Cold War arsenals of nuclear weapons, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying on Thursday by local news agencies.

President Barack Obama and Kremlin chief Dmitry Medvedev agreed in July the outlines of a preliminary deal to replace the landmark 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-1) but negotiators are facing a host of technical issues in talks.

Lavrov said negotiators had made progress on difficult issues and would report to both presidents when they meet on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh later this month.
(h/t: Cheryl Rofer).

Researchers have found two new antibodies that neutralize HIV:
"The findings themselves are an exciting advance toward the goal of an effective AIDS vaccine because now we've got a new, potentially better target on HIV to focus our efforts for vaccine design," said Wayne Koff, senior vice president of research and development at IAVI. "And having identified this one, we're set up to find more, which should further accelerate global efforts in AIDS vaccine development."
In related news, researchers have apparently developed a heat-stable hepatitis B vaccine:
In many parts of the world, the need to keep vaccines cold during transport and storage requires allocation of scarce resources for refrigeration equipment and special handling procedures. In addition, vaccines are frequently damaged when they are accidentally frozen or exposed to heat. Heat- and freeze-stable vaccines are more resistant to damage when temperatures rise and fall due to power outages, faulty refrigeration equipment, or handling errors.

The heat-stable hepatitis B vaccine recently developed by PATH and partners could be kept in alternate storage facilities (air-conditioned rooms) and under alternative transport conditions (insulated packaging without ice packs) for potentially its entire shelf life without compromising the effectiveness of the vaccine. The added heat stability can also facilitate outreach to remote areas.
I'm a bit choked up by the news that divers have found the bell from Dreamland pier at Coney Island:
The divers discovered a massive brass bell that was rung in bygone days at the old Dreamland Park whenever passengers left or arrived by steamboat at its once-bustling amusement pier.

In other subaqueous news, a submerged Mexican convent has reappeared:
A 16th Century convent in Mexico has re-emerged as water levels in a dam reservoir have fallen to low levels.

Low water levels at the Malpaso hydroelectric dam in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas have uncovered part of the convent, which was submerged along with the community of Quechula 40 years ago when the dam was built.
The link includes fascinating video footage, so be sure to click through.

Chameleons. Artwork from the Guild of Book Workers. A collection of Yiddish sheet music. Plates illustrating Transformations in the 18th-Century British Book Trade. Historic photos of Australian caves. And a few lovely images from Lost Istanbul.

Google Moon. This theory on the growth of brains and cities doesn't exactly strike me as rigorous, but it's still an enjoyable read. Via things comes The Cliff House Project, which will be of interest, I hope, to a semi-regular reader who has clambered over these rocks with me many times. (She'll also like Starry Messenger.) In addition: fire lookout towers, and some gorgeous Japanese magazine covers.

Dog and piglet. The McCune Collection, and plenty of it. Mongolian interiors. Photographic surveys of exhaust pipe sculptures and kiddie rides. Plates from A Book of Moss, and drawings from a 1929 edition of Alice in Wonderland.

Here's a cartoon, also.

(Photo at top via Environmental Graffiti.)


The Kenosha Kid said...

I saw a doc about Tempelhof a while back. I wonder what they are going to do with the miles and miles of tunnels and the perfectly preserved Nazi-era murals.


Phila said...

I saw a doc about Tempelhof a while back. I wonder what they are going to do with the miles and miles of tunnels and the perfectly preserved Nazi-era murals.

Tunnels = industrial clubs and S/M parlors.

Murals = change the skin color of some figures, so that they communicate a beautiful message about diversity.