Friday, December 31, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

Given that I haven't exactly held up my end of the bargain this year, I'm touched and flattered that people still read and comment from time to time. I'd like to do more in the coming year, mainly because I miss the conversation. Perhaps in the glorious sci-fi utopia of A.D. 2011, I'll find myself in a better position to fulfill my lifelong dream of prattling interminably on the Internets.

I feel as though I should say something about the past year, but my mind is blanker than usual. For me, at least, it began with a larger leap into the unknown than most, and in retrospect I begin to see how it brought me to a point where words seemed pointless. Or mine did, anyway.

Maybe I was too hasty. Or not. Who's to say?

In any case, here are a few links for Auld Lang Syne. Because as we all know, "the easy way and the inclination is toward despair and that is the great temptation."

Freshwater wildlife thrives in cleanest rivers since Industrial Revolution.

Gingrich-buster among President Obama's recess appointments.

U.S. court rules Texas cannot delay EPA-mandated greenhouse gas rules.

Paris will test a ban of high-emissions vehicles in the city center.

Far East Dallas residents welcome all neighbors – including homeless.

Seven imperiled Brazilian bird species gain endangered status.

Grazing halted to protect steelhead trout on a quarter-million acres of Malheur National Forest.

Another setback for a West Coast coal port.

Massachusetts to get "pay as you drive" auto insurance.

New study shows death penalty in decline nationwide.

Mobile technology gives Zimbabweans a voice.

Local Community Radio Act was passed.
Feel free to add more in comments. Best wishes for the new year to all of yez. See you when I get there!

(Photo at top: Eternal Flame Waterfall.)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

The European Court on Human Rights has ruled against Ireland's abortion ban:

Ireland's constitutional ban on abortion violates the rights of pregnant women to receive proper medical care in life-threatening cases, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday in a judgment that harshly criticized Ireland's long inaction on the issue.

The judgment from the Strasbourg, France-based court will put Ireland under pressure to draft a law extending limited abortion rights to women whose pregnancies represent a potentially fatal threat to their own health.

The U.S. government has filed a lawsuit against BP:
The federal government today filed suit against BP under the Clean Water Act and other laws, seeking civil penalties for the discharge of millions of gallons of oil and other pollutants into the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon explosion. The lawsuit will join hundreds of other lawsuits over the Gulf oil spill disaster, including the Center for Biological Diversity’s $19 billion Clean Water Act, suit filed against the oil giant in June.

“We’ve been waiting for months for the federal government to file suit against BP for the devastating oil spill in the Gulf,” said Charlie Tebbutt, attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “With all the players now at the table, we look forward to co-prosecuting this case with the federal government to hold BP accountable for the worst environmental disaster in American history.”

Mexico is undertaking an ambitious LED streetlight project:

LED lights are coming to Mexico in a big way — Quintana Roo’s Estate Governor Félix González Canto recently announced during the UN climate change conference in Cancun that the municipality of Othón Blanco will replace 25,507 streetlights with energy-efficient LED versions. The announcement, which was made in conjunction with GE (all light bulbs will be GE Evolve LED cobrahead street lights), marks the largest LED street lighting project in Latin America.

Paterson, NJ hopes to turn an old industrial area into a public attraction:

A 10-member team of archeologists, architects and engineers in May dug under the dense brush and weeds covering the old Allied Textile Printing site to find out how many of the 40 structures and water channels could be restored and incorporated into a national historic park.

What they found was encouraging, researchers said. It included two stories of the Colt Gun Mill, home of the nation's first revolver, as well as remnants of a support base that marked where a wooden flume once carried water to power the gun mill before plunging over a bluff as a 30-foot waterfall.

Australia has issued new restrictions on illegally harvested timber:
The Australian government has announced the creation of new legislation which will put further restrictions on the import of foreign wood products in effort to halt the flow of illegally logged timber. Taking effect next year, the laws will require importers to disclose the sources of all timber products, even paper.
Researchers have found a new lemur in Madagascar:
The squirrel-sized beast is a type of fork-marked lemur, a nocturnal species that feeds on nectar and bark. It belongs to the Phaner genus (which includes four other species) and lives in Daraina, a region in northeast Madagascar that is being pillaged for rosewood, a valuable timber used for making luxury furniture in China.

Photo by Russell A. Mittermeier
A fish thought be be extinct has been rediscovered:
[A] new discovery suggests that a small population of kokanee salmon may have survived.

"I was really surprised," Tetsuji Nakabo, a professor at Kyoto University who led the team that made the discovery said, "this is a very interesting fish—it's a treasure. We have to protect it and not let it disappear again."

Finland will protect most of its remaining northern forests:

Metsahallitus, a forest enterprise controlled by the Finnish government, have agreed to preserve 80 percent of 107,000 hectares of pine forests in northern Finland. The area, which serves as a grazing land for the reindeer, includes tracts of old growth forest.

The decision comes after an 8-year battle by Greenpeace and Finland's indigenous Saami reindeer herders.

California has approved cap-and-trade regulations:
The California Air Resources Board voted 9-1 to adopt cap and trade regulations for AB32, California's 2006 climate law. The move, which establishes the first compliance carbon trading system in the United States, opens the door for carbon offsets generated via forest conservation projects.

The new rules will allow polluting industries to buy and sell emissions allowances. 90 percent of allowances would be free during the early stages of the program, but as the cap tightens, fewer allowances will be available. By 2020 the cap would limit emissions to 1990 levels.
San Jose, CA is the latest city to ban shopping bags:

In a sweeping 10-1 verdict, the San Jose City Council has officially banned all single use plastic shopping bags and barred retailers from giving away paper bags yesterday. The ban will take effect on January 1st 2012 and was pushed along by a mighty campaign by non-profit Save the Bay who estimates that over 1 million single use shopping bags end up in San Francisco Bay every year. San Jose is California’s third largest city making this the largest plastic bag ban in the state.

Also in California, a new agreement will protect 1 million acres of roadless areas from development:

Under the agreement, federal and state agencies, conservationists and ORV users will work together to improve and protect the roadless areas. The Forest Service will reconsider protecting several of the areas permanently as wilderness. Parties will identify roads and trails that are degrading roadless areas; the Forest Service will prioritize these for decommissioning and restoration. While the agency reconsiders the management plans, it will protect all roadless areas from harmful activities, including those that could prevent them from being recommended as wilderness in the future.

And the first molten salt power plant is about to be built:

The most common complaint lodged against solar power is that -- say it with me now -- it's only able to provide power when it's light outside. Solar developers have tried to solve this problem a number of ways, and using molten salt to store the heat is one of the most promising. And the technology is now ready to move beyond the drawing board -- California just approved its first molten salt solar power plant.

And the 100-watt incandescent bulb is about to be banned.

So long 100-watt incandescent light bulbs -- California is ordering them off store shelves starting Jan. 1 in an energy-saving move....

California is starting its phase-out a year early because of state regulations to reduce energy consumption.

Believe it or not, this is happening despite the disapproval of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

New research suggests that wind turbines have the potential to benefit crops:
Wind turbines in Midwestern farm fields may be doing more than churning out electricity. The giant turbine blades that generate renewable energy might also help corn and soybean crops stay cooler and dryer, help them fend off fungal infestations and improve their ability to extract growth-enhancing carbon dioxide from the air and soil.
Black segregation is at a 100-year low:
New Census figures from 2005 to that black residential segregation has decreased since to a 100-year low. The average black person lives in a neighborhood that is 46 percent black (down from 49 percent in 2000). Residential segregation is by no means a thing of the past—it actually increased in 25 of the 100 largest metropolitan areas—but the numbers are encouraging.
The EPA is accepting public comments on a proposed ban on triclosan:
Triclosan is an antimicrobial substance used in pesticide products, hand sanitizers, toothpaste, and other consumer products. The petitioners claim that the "pervasive and widespread use'' of triclosan poses significant risks to human health and the environment. In addition, the petitioners claim that the agency failed to address the impacts posed by triclosan's degradation products on human health and the environment, failed to conduct separate assessments for triclosan residues in contaminated drinking water and food, and is complacent in seriously addressing concerns related to antibacterial resistance and endocrine disruption. EPA has established a public docket, which contains a copy of the petition and will contain all comments received in response to this notice.
A new study emphasizes the importance of Social Security for women:
Without Social Security, research indicates that about half of women age 65 and older would be living in poverty. With the program in place, the poverty rate for women falls to 12 percent.
History's shadow. The true history of Deacon Giles' Distillery. Photos by Candace Plummer Gaudiani. Photos by Lucy Helton. And assorted frost crystals.

Chalk talk. Photos by Terry Evans. Images from the Abita Mystery House. An early vocoder. Niagara Falls, minus the water. A Thump over the Head with Sampson’s Jawbone. And photos by Maria Gruzdeva.

The Shellackophile. Lunar reconaissance. Sounds of Enceladus. A deserted colony. Retrofuturological prognostications (via Peacay). And photos by Sabine Delcour.

Also, a short seasonal film.

And a much shorter bonus feature.

Alright? Alright.

(Photo at top: "A mixture of 'Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda), Borax, and the stain Orange G' between crossed polars" by Richard Howey.)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

Florida's tomato pickers have won an important battle:

Fair trade is finally coming to the tomato fields of Florida, where farmworkers have won a remarkable victory in a 15-year struggle for better pay and working conditions. Last month, they struck a deal with growers to raise workers’ pay and to create an industry code of conduct, a health and safety program and a system to resolve worker complaints.
An Amazon tribe has created an indigenous forest carbon fund:
“Indigenous peoples have an outstanding track record in terms of forest stewardship, as has been demonstrated time and again by studies of conservation and deforestation rates, but they generally have less experience with managing the sorts of finance and investments that carbon market transactions entail,” says Jacob Olander, who is providing technical support as head of the Katoomba Incubator, a project of environmental non-profit Forest Trends (publisher of Ecosystem Marketplace). The incubator is designed to help local groups around the world develop expertise in payments for ecosystem services (PES), which are schemes designed to reward good land stewardship by recognizing the economic value of nature’s services.
A Canadian federal judge has ruled "that the Canadian government cannot rely on voluntary protocols and guidelines to protect orca critical habitat."
The judge brought acoustics into his decision by stressing that critical habitat protections must include ecosystem features, including prey availability and and noise impacts.
Apropos of which, Canada's House of Commons has voted to ban oil supertankers from the coast of British Columbia:

British Columbia is now one step closer to having a full legislated ban on supertankers off its north and central coasts. The opposition is sending a clear message to the Conservatives to legislate a formal moratorium.

Today's ban could seriously impact Enbridge, who has plans to develop a $5.5 billion 1,170-kilometre pipeline to carry dirty tar sands bitumen to Kitimat, B.C., where it would be loaded onto supertankers bound for growing energy markets in Asia.

And a federal appeals court has ruled that California air regulators can impose fees on developers to maintain air quality:
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld the local air district's rule requiring developers to reduce emissions from new housing projects by building features like bicycle lanes and energy-efficient cooling systems. If they don't do enough to preserve air quality, they must pay fees that have averaged about $500 per house.

A species of albatross previously thought to be extinct is alive and well and living in Hawaii:
For the first time ever, the birds have been found nesting on two tiny islands in the U.S., in the northwestern Hawaiian island chain. One nest with a couple of eggs inside was found on the Kule atoll, accompanied by two female birds; the other, on Midway atoll, contained fresh eggs and was guarded by both a male and female albatross.

The vermilion darter has won habitat protections in Alabama:
In response to litigation brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today designated 13 miles of stream in the Turkey Creek watershed in Jefferson County, Alabama, as critical habitat for the endangered vermilion darter, a beautiful, brightly colored fish....

Alabama’s rivers contain more unique species than anywhere else in the country, hosting hundreds of endemic freshwater species, including fish, mussels, snails, crayfish and turtles. The state also ranks second in the nation in terms of the number of species that have been lost to extinction.
Mountain gorilla populations have increased in the Virunga massif region:
"The survey results provide us with an excellent demonstration of how strong law enforcement efforts put in place to safeguard flagship species can advance species conservation, benefit local communities, and provide important revenue to governments," David Greer, African Great Ape Coordinator with WWF said.

The census, conducted between March and April of this year, found 480 gorillas, whereas 7 years ago there were only 380. The only other population of mountain gorillas occurs in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in southern Uganda, which is thought to number 302 individuals and 4 orphans, making a total of 786 wild mountain gorillas surviving.
An Israeli company is attempting to harvest energy from passing trains:

Piezoelectric technology generates energy from pressure and stress on certain surfaces, and we’ve seen it harvest electricity from roads and dance floors to power lights and signs. Recently Israeli company Innowattech unveiled a new use for this versatile energy tech – they’re planning to install piezoelectric pads throughout the country’s railways to generate electricity....

A prototype of the energy-generating system was installed last year by the Technion University and Israel Railways in order to show the benefits of the technology. The project discovered that a railway track with trafficked by 10 to 20 ten-car trains could produce as much as 120 kWh, which could be used to power infrastructural systems such as signs and lights. Any surplus energy would then be uploaded to the country’s power grid.

Sail-powered cargo ships seem to be making a comeback:
Initially intended to operate within European waters, particularly in the North Sea and Baltic, the ship will carry 9,000 tons of cargo--about one-tenth of typical modern container ships but roughly five times the capacity of typical sail-powered cargo vessels at the height of the age of sail in the nineteenth century.
A huge PV plant has opened in Nevada:
The plant is located 40 miles southeast of Las Vegas, in Boulder City and features more than 775,000 First Solar panels spread out over an area of 380 acres. The project was so large that it required 350 workers to fully install the units. The plant’s completion means that it has now broken the country’s previous record of the largest PV plant which was held by the 20-MW DeSoto PV plant in Arcadia, Florida.
The tobacco mosaic virus may increase the storage capacity of lithium batteries:

Scientists in the U.S. had already worked out how to coat the tiny rod-like cells of the virus with conductive materials. But the recent breakthrough has seen the nanorods incorporated into battery technology, with astonishingly beneficial results. The tobacco mosaic virus is a perfect candidate because it's the right size and shape to aid construction of battery electrodes, and it's self-replicating and self-assembling and can bind to metal.

Tierstimmen. An official global warming debunking tool. High-speed photos by Edward Horsford. A working Lego version of the Antikythera Mechanism. And a very small chameleon:

India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka movies, 1929-1947. Yokohama prints, 1859–1870s. CriticalPast (via The Bioscope). Related: The biggest girl. Cartoons from the Weekly Freeman. Tree windmills and automata. And photos by Elliot Erwitt:

Greasy Christmas. Exploding cameras. Sun Ra's 1971 Berkeley lectures. The ghost of subways past. Filling the Frame. Sunrise at the Spiral Jetty. And a 1969 photo essay on IBM computers.

And not only that, but also — in addition — here's a movie as well, too.

(Photo at top: "Seasons change and people change" by chomdee.)

Friday, December 03, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

It's another busy week for yours truly, but I'm going to see how many stories I can get listed in the next hour or two. As always, you're welcome — if not obliged — to add links of your own in comments.

Sixty-nine women were elected to the Afghan parliament:

Women candidates in particular faced threats, violence, and intimidation from insurgents during this parliamentary election, which was the fourth election since the Taliban's fall. The Independent Election Commission deemed nearly one quarter of the ballots invalid and received nearly 5,000 complaints about election irregularities.

Nevertheless, Fazel Ahmad Manawi, Chairman of the Independent Election Commission, clarified, "With all the shortcomings, it was a major success for us, the Afghan government, people of Afghanistan and our international friends."
The U.S. Senate has passed a bill against child marriage:

This morning, the U.S. Senate passed the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act, an important bill which would help change the fact that every day girls as young as eight or nine are forced to marry men who are often decades older....

It might seem like passing this bill would be a no-brainer, but folks have actually been working really hard in DC for six years just to get this thing passed. It’s a big day for women’s rights groups on the Hill, and I congratulate them on this big win.

The Illinois senate has passed a civil union bill:

Increased rights include the right to inherit, the right to visit partners in a hospital, the ability to share a room in a nursing home and the power to make end-of-life decisions for a partner.

Some people were against it, of course. Here's an entertaining response to them from Sen. Ricky Hendon (via Truth Wins Out).

NASA has discovered a new life form in Mono Lake:

A team of NASA scientists studying bacteria in Mono Lake in California have discovered a microorganism that substitutes arsenic — a chemical that is toxic to almost all living organisms — for all parts of a cell that in every other life form are built from phosphate. Not only has this discovery made it necessary to re-edit every science textbook in use, but researchers say it could revolutionize green energy and toxic waste cleanup.

It's interesting news, definitely, but the description is a bit overwrought for my tastes. Cheryl has a more...measured response.

This is a pretty amazing statistic, if true:
Just 15 of the worlds largest ships pump out as much pollution as every car on earth (760 million cars). The reason is that these ships burn enormous amounts of very very dirty fuel.
And this is a pretty good idea regardless:
[The] EPA is setting up a 230 mile buffer zone around the US, with Canada expected to follow, that would keep this pollution farther out to sea....

The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates the buffer zone, which could be in place by next year, will save more than 8,000 lives a year with new air quality standards cutting sulfur in fuel by 98%, particulate matter by 85% and nitrogen oxide emissions by 80%.
Apropos of which, the world's largest solar-powered boat has crossed the Atlantic.
The vessel is completely fuelled by renewable energy, with its solar cells having a 22% efficiency rate. These are the highest rated cells available for purchase on the market, and the cells cover over 500 square meters of the ship. The solar cells are able to power two electric motors which are found in the hull, giving the ship at a top speed of 14 knots. Most notably, the large surface area of solar cells means that the catamaran can travel for up to three full days, even without direct sunlight – any excess energy is stored in a state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery.
In California, a rare plant has received habitat protection.
[T]he U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today designated 783 acres of critical habitat for the endangered San Diego ambrosia, a plant that only grows in small parts of California and Mexico. Critical habitat is essential for recovery of this rare plant, whose numbers have declined drastically from more than 50 populations to just 18. This final designation includes three general areas in the western part of Riverside County, covering 189 acres, and four general areas, covering 594 acres, in San Diego County.

“With protection of its habitat, the San Diego ambrosia now has a chance at survival,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity.
So has a threatened fish:
Responding to a lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today designated additional critical habitat for the federally threatened Santa Ana sucker, a fish that lives only in Southern California. Today’s revised designation includes 9,331 acres of critical habitat, up from 8,305 acres in the previous designation. Importantly, this new designation includes stretches of the Santa Ana River and its tributaries that are currently occupied by the fish but had been removed from the previous flawed designation.
Polar bears won some tentative habitat protections as well:
More than 187,000 square miles (approximately 120 million acres) along the north coast of Alaska were designated today as “critical habitat” for the polar bear as a result of a partial settlement in an ongoing lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Greenpeace against the Department of the Interior. This designation under the Endangered Species Act is intended to safeguard those coastal lands and waters under U.S. jurisdiction that are vital to the polar bears’ survival and recovery.
In Tennessee, Cracker Barrel restaurants are installing charging stations for electric cars:
Cracker Barrel is going to install electric vehicle charging stations at 24 of its restaurants along three Tennessee freeways. Twelve of them will be Blink chargers that can get a Chevy Volt from dead to 80 percent in 20 minutes.
I can't wait for David Brooks to explain What It All Means.

The rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has slowed dramatically:
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell to the lowest rate on record, putting Brazil well on track to meet its targets for reducing rainforest destruction.

Analysis of satellite imagery by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) shows that 6,450 square kilometers of rainforest were cleared in the Amazon in the 12 months ended July 31, 2010, a 14 percent drop from the year earlier period.
In related news:
The burgeoning global program REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) could do more than mitigate climate change, according to a new study in Conservation Letters by scientists with Conservation International (CI). Analyzing a sample of 2,500 forest animals, including mammals, birds and amphibians, researchers found that REDD+ could reduce the rate of extinction among these species by 46-82% over five years. The wide range in the study's findings depends on the amount of funds devoted to REDD+: more funds means greater forest preservation and, thereby, less extinction.
The World Wildlife Fund has created a new digital file format that can't be printed:
Drop by Save as WWF, Save a Tree to download software that will add a "Save as WWF" option to your print menu. Any WWFs you create can be opened by programs that open PDFs—but can't be printed.

Will you really save a tree every time you use this new file format? Obviously not. But the campaign does provide an effective reminder that a lot of paper gets wasted out of plain old carelessness.

Also: Impossibly beautiful antique radio tuning dials (via Coudal). Earth as art. A close-up view of Prunella vulgaris. Photos by Dirk Kirchner. And Phobos near the limb of Mars:

Zero to 10 in 85 seconds. Vintage Japanese political posters. A Portrait of LA. Antique circles (via Peacay). And Le Grand Blanc.

I think we have time for a movie, as well:

(Illustration at top: "vintage 19th c. marbled paper, antique straight pattern" via BibliOdyssey.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

Medicare has finalized new rules that affirm the right of hospital patients to choose their visitors:

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today issued new rules for Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals that protect patients’ right to choose their own visitors during a hospital stay, including a visitor who is a same-sex domestic partner.

“Basic human rights—such as your ability to choose your own support system in a time of need—must not be checked at the door of America’s hospitals,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Today’s rules help give ‘full and equal’ rights to all of us to choose whom we want by our bedside when we are sick, and override any objection by a hospital or staffer who may disagree with us for any non-clinical reason.”

Arizona's racial profiling law may have cost it $45 million in convention business:
Spinoff effects bring economic losses into the hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the study, commissioned by the Center for American Progress, a liberal policy group in Washington. Potential future effects of fewer convention bookings could mean Arizona will receive an overall hit of more than $750 million, the study said.
The British Beekeepers' Association will stop endorsing the use of pesticides that kill bees:

The British Beekeepers' Association has today announced plans to end its controversial practice of endorsing pesticides in return for cash from leading chemical manufacturers.

The endorsement of four products as "bee-friendly" in return for £17,500 a year caused outrage among many beekeepers because one of the companies, Bayer Crop Science, makes pesticides that are widely implicated in the deaths of honeybees worldwide.

In related news, the EPA will ban endosulfan:

Endosulfan is an antiquated, dangerous insecticide used on tomatoes, cotton and other crops that is a pervasive pollutant of waterways and a threat to numerous endangered species. It has also has been linked to endocrine disruption, reproductive disorders and other severe effects on human health. Conservationists, public health officials, farmworkers and indigenous groups have been calling for a U.S. ban on this DDT-era pesticide for years. Endosulfan is already banned in the European Union, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and other countries.

In news related to the foregoing related news:
Research shows that the benefits of environmental regulations consistently exceed costs, in part because they end up costing far less than both industry and the EPA predict.

When EPA promulgates regulations, industry often expresses concern that the regulations will cause extreme economic hardship. Now this argument is being made regarding EPA regulation of carbon pollution using existing legal authorities like the Clean Air Act. In fact, there is extensive literature showing that the costs of environmental regulations are more than offset by a broad range of economic, public health and jobs-related benefits. Additionally, initial cost estimates are consistently found to be exaggerated.

Economists and researchers who have compared actual costs with initial projections report that regulations generally end up costing far less than the dire predictions from industry and even, as an RFF study shows, below cost projections by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Xerox claims to have saved $10.2 million by asking its employees for green business ideas:

One way to dismiss sustainability and any smidgen of corporate social responsibility is to shout the antiquated argument that we only have a choice between the economy and the environment. Xerox has shown that is not the case. Last year the company announced it was working on carbon neutrality; to that end, in the push to make the company more "green," Xerox encouraged its employees to share ideas on how the organization could become more efficient....

The results from employees’ rethinking: Xerox has saved US$10.2 million this year while it eliminated 2.6 million pounds of waste.
In California, new regulations require reformulation of household cleaning products:

About 2,000 household cleaning products will be reformulated to reduce smog-forming compounds under a new regulation adopted Thursday in California.

The rule will trigger a new, mandatory wave of “green” products, including window cleaners, general purpose cleaning sprays, degreasers, oven cleaners, metal polishes, furniture sprays, heavy-duty hand soaps and spot removers.

Household cleaners, which contain highly reactive solvents known as VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are a substantial source of smog. The new standards will reduce emissions by nearly 7 tons per day, which is the equivalent of removing half a million cars from California’s roads.

The Pentagon will stop shielding certain consultants from disclosure laws:
The Pentagon has dropped its attempt to shield some consultants from public scrutiny and will require all retired admirals and generals it hires under its "senior mentors" program to disclose their employers, earnings and stocks they own.

Under pressure from Congress, the Pentagon had required that only consultants making more than $119,553 per year disclose their finances.

But in a memo Friday, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn said the disclosure rules will apply to all mentors.

Indonesia has created a large shark sanctuary:
A shark sanctuary has been declared around the Raja Ampat islands in Indonesia. Larger than Denmark, the new sanctuary covers 17,760 square miles (46,000 square kilometers) of one of the world's richest marine biodiverse region, the Coral Triangle. Protections not only cover sharks, but dugongs, marine turtles, mobulas, and manta rays as well. In addition, reef bombing and fishing for the aquarium trade are banned.
Researchers have found several new frogs in Colombia:
The newly discovered species include a cryptic beaked toad (Rhinella species), which resembles dead leaves and whose offspring skip the tadpole stage to develop directly into toadlets; an unknown toad with bright red eyes; and a new rocket frog (Silverstoneia species), a type of poison dart frog.
Photo: Robin Moore/iLCP

South Africa is deploying its military to stop rhino poaching:

Rhino poaching keeps taking on such alarming proportions in South Africa that the country's defence force has now been called in to help fight the ruthless killers who are mostly using assault weapons and often other sophisticated equipment to carry out their crime.

The request has come from South African National Parks (SANParks), which has been engaged in its own growing battle to stem rhino poaching in Kruger National Park, the country's flagship reserve that is home to about 10,000 white rhinos and 350 black rhinos.

Researchers in Hong Kong have created a solar air conditioning system for cars:

The system consists of a roof-mounted photovoltaic panel that collects solar energy and stories it in a custom battery supported by an optimized control system. The power collected will then be able to support a stand-alone electric air-conditioner, which can be switched on when the vehicle engine is not running. If the weather is dark, then stored energy can be used to power the system.

Currently the system can only produce enough power to sustain a standalone electric air conditioner, but the researchers are currently working on other projects that can benefit from the system, such as implementing them on the streets of Hong Kong to power shop A/C units and refrigerators.

Cheryl alerts me to these heartening Nunn-Lugar statistics:
The Nunn-Lugar scorecard now totals 7,599 strategic nuclear warheads deactivated, 791 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) destroyed, 498 ICBM silos eliminated, 180 ICBM mobile launchers destroyed, 651 submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) eliminated, 492 SLBM launchers eliminated, 32 nuclear submarines capable of launching ballistic missiles destroyed, 155 bomber eliminated, 906 nuclear air-to-surface missiles (ASMs) destroyed, 194 nuclear test tunnels eliminated, 493 nuclear weapons transport train shipments secured, upgraded security at 24 nuclear weapons storage sites, built and equipped 20 biological monitoring stations, and neutralized 1569.5 metric tons of Russian & Albanian chemical weapons agent. Perhaps most importantly, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus are nuclear weapons free as a result of cooperative efforts under the Nunn-Lugar program. Those countries were the third, fourth and eighth largest nuclear weapons powers in the world.
Apropos of which:
Enough plutonium and uranium to make 775 nuclear weapons has been removed from the BN-350 fast reactor in Kazakhstan, built to breed plutonium for the Soviet Union's nuclear weapons program, and placed in a secure storage facility to keep terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The United States and Kazakhstan worked together to achieve the transfer, which was announced today by U.S. and Kazakh officials at the storage facility in Eastern Kazakhstan.

"Working closely together, we secured, packaged and removed the spent fuel that contains 10 metric tons of highly enriched uranium and three metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium, enough material for 775 nuclear weapons," said Anne Harrington, deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation with the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, NNSA.

Kentucky has canceled plans to build a coal plant:
Thanks to a powerful and growing New Power grassroots movement, a broad alliance of Kentucky activists sent an electrifying message across the nation today: A just transition to a clean energy future, even in the heartland of coal country Kentucky, is possible.

Recognizing the spiraling costs of coal-fired plant construction and more practical energy efficiency and renewable energy options, the East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC) has agreed to halt its once fervent plans to construct two coal-burning power plants in Clark County.

I heartily endorse this event and/or product:

House Democrats are exploiting an embarrassing moment for the GOP earlier this week to highlight the hypocrisy of Republicans' relentless opposition to health care reform.

Four members -- Joe Crowley (NY), Linda Sanchez (CA), Donna Edwards (MD), and Tim Ryan (OH) -- are rounding up signatures for a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Speaker-to-be John Boehner, encouraging them to press their members to refuse their federal health benefits based on the same principles underlying their opposition to health care reform.

Sixteen studies from vegetable locomotion (1975). Eight films by Alexander Kluge. Seven hours of a train ride through Norway. Three abandoned churches. And an unspecified number of photos by Clarence John Laughlin:

Celestial mechanics. Vintage coupons. Calling the time lady. "The picturesque dress of the Newhaven fish-women will not escape the notice of a stranger." Graphic Presentation (via things). Neverends. Molecular animation (via Peacay). Photos by Abelardo Morell. Photos by David Vestal (via wood s lot). And home from above:

Redrawing our borders. Related: John Wesley Powell's watershed maps. The bright lights of the big city. The unified lunar control network. And strange images from the Nottingham Caves Survey:

Here's a cartoon, too:

(Image at top: "The small object featured in this exhibition is the oldest surviving Anglo-American star map. It was made in 1780 by Simeon De Witt, a surveyor for George Washington and the Continental army. The map shows the stars visible from De Witt’s post in New Jersey. Drawing such a map, as De Witt himself later said, fostered an appreciation of 'the ever shifting scenery of the skies and all the gorgeous drapery of heaven.'")

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

A North Carolina jury has found the anti-choice radical Flip Benham guilty of stalking doctors:

The director of a conservative Christian group was found guilty Monday of stalking N.C. doctors who perform abortions.

Rev. Flip Benham was sentenced in Mecklenburg court to two years probation and plans to appeal the decision, WSOC-TV reported. Benham, director of Operation Save America, which opposes abortion, homosexuality and Islamic violence, was accused of posting Wild West-style "Wanted" posters with the doctors' names and home addresses.

According to a recent study, lesbian households have an enviably low child-abuse rate:

The U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS) just released its results on its 24-year long study on families with lesbian parents, finding that not one of the 78 adolescents in the study had reported being sexually or physically abused by their parents. This compares to 26% of American adolescents overall who report parent or caregiver physical abuse. 8.3% report sexual abuse.

Additionally, only 2.8% of the adolescents in the study identified themselves as gay. Apparently the majority of them didn’t catch their parents’ gayness.

Caterpillar has suspended sales of D9 bulldozers to Israel:
The Israeli press is reporting that Caterpillar is withholding the delivery of tens of D9 bulldozers—valued at $50 million—to the Israeli military. These are weaponized bulldozers that are used to illegally destroy homes and orchards of Palestinian families.
(h/t: Karin)

A federal judge has ruled against warrantless cellphone tracking:
The court reached this conclusion both because cell tracking reveals information about constitutionally protected spaces such as the home, and because the prolonged nature of such surveillance is very invasive. The court likened the records sought by the government to “a continuous reality TV show, exposing two months’ worth of a person’s movements, activities, and associations in relentless detail.”
San Francisco has formally enacted the country's first open data law:
One year ago, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order directing the city’s departments to make their data public. Yesterday, the city’s board of supervisors turned that order into law. As far as we could establish, this is the first time any city in the U.S. has implemented an open data law....

In the year since Newsom opened the data treasure troves, 200 sets of data have been released, and at least 50 apps have been built using them. Among the apps: EcoFinder, which helps people find recycling locations for all sorts of odds and ends; SpotCrime, which plots crime incidents and sends alerts to residents; and, possibly the favorite of the city's transportation-beleaguered residents, Routesy, which lets people plan tips on public transportation and provides real-time information about when the next bus or train is coming.

A new study suggests that organic strawberry farms produce better crops than conventional farms:
Strawberries from the conventional and organic farms had similar levels of minerals such as potassium, phosphorous and calcium. However, organically grown berries had higher levels of antioxidants and polyphenols, nutrients linked to preventing cancer. They also had higher dry weight, or “more berry in the berry,” said Reganold.
Arizona Public Service Co. may shut down part of the Four Corners power plant:

The Environmental Protection Agency last month unveiled a proposal for environmental upgrades at the plant to improve air quality in the region, and APS officials estimated they would cost about $1 billion.

Rather than pay for all that work at the five-generator power plant, APS proposes closing the first three generators, which it owns, and buying Southern California Edison out of its share of units 4 and 5, which don't need as much investment to meet EPA standards.

PNC Bank will stop funding mountaintop removal mining:
“This move makes PNC bank number seven to issue a position on MTR,” the Rainforest Action Network’s Amanda Starbuck writes, “following in the footsteps of Bank of America, Citi, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Credit Suisse.” PNC’s decision leaves UBS and GE Capital the only major banks that support mountaintop removal.
Italy is launching the world's first solar motorway:
Road testing is due in November, while on 1st January 2011 the Catania-Siracusa motorway will open to the public. By then, 100 percent of its electricity needs will be met by the PV panels installed along the road: 80 thousand of them. Lights, tunnel fans, road signs, emergency telephones, all the services and street furniture installed on the A18 will be run with solar power: distributed over a surface of 20 hectares, the photovoltaic array was obtained through the construction of 3 artificial tunnels on a 100m wide, 2.8km long stretch of road, a project with an overall cost of €60 million. Annual solar electricity production is estimated at about 12 million kWh, which will save — constructors claim — the equivalent of around 31 thousand tons of oil and 10 thousand tons worth of CO2 emissions every year.
An interesting new lightbulb will allegedly be available in 2011:
The 10,000-hour, mercury-free ESL bulb is purportedly just as energy-efficient as both LEDs and CFLs — and it’s dimmable. Vu1 claims that its bulb can disposed of without worrying about toxic elements, and it produces 50% less heat than incandescents to boot.
Doctors have restored a man's vision with an electronic chip:
A man left blind by a devastating eye disease has been able to read letters, tell the time and identify a cup and saucer on a table after surgeons fitted him with an electronic chip to restore his vision.
(h/t: Karin again)

A group of scientists has launched a massive effort to catalog and preserve old scientific data:
Old records have more than proved their worth by now. Data from ships’ logbooks, for example, have been used to study the history of whaling, climate change and the planet’s magnetic field. Zooniverse—which in the past has harnessed the power of bored people with computers to search through pictures of the sky for supernovae and cosmic mergers—has unleashed their horde of citizen scientists on record books from Royal Navy vessels from World War I to gather data and improve a database of weather extremes.
Coffee can archaeology. Map art by Fernando Vicente. Photos by Agustín Casasola (via wood s lot).

Colonial Film (via The Bioscope). Mollusca. Phonebook carvings. The Oya stone museum. And a visit to a nuclear reactor.

And selected short subjects.

(Photo at top: "Last week, NASA's robotic EPOXI spacecraft whizzed past Comet 103P/Hartley, also known as Comet Hartley 2, and recorded images and data that are both strange and fascinating. EPOXI was near its closest approach -- about 700 kilometers away -- when it snapped the above picture")

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

According to the Global Gender Gap Index, the United States actually made a little progress toward gender equality in 2009:

The world is moving toward greater equality between men and women, with Iceland keeping its lead in a ranking of 134 nations and the U.S. climbing into the top 20, according to a report by the World Economic Forum.

The U.S. rose to No. 19 -- jumping 12 positions -- in part because women now hold 33 percent of leading jobs in the administration of President Barack Obama, compared with 24 percent in 2009, the report showed. Still, the country ranked 40th in political empowerment, with Iceland claiming the top spot.

The European Court on Human Rights has fined Russia for banning gay pride parades in Moscow:

The European Court of Human Rights has fined Russia for banning gay parades in Moscow, in an important victory for the country's gay community.

A leading activist, Nikolai Alexeyev, brought the case after the city authorities repeatedly rejected his requests to organise marches....

"This is a crippling blow to Russian homophobia on all accounts," Mr Alexeyev said after the verdict was announced.

In related news, let's hear it for gay embryos!

It looks as though the United States has finally scrapped its plans for an "invisible" border fence:
The Department of Homeland Security, apparently ready to cut its losses on a so-called invisible fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, has decided not to exercise a one-year option for Boeing to continue work on the troubled multibillion-dollar plan involving high-tech cameras, radar and vibration sensors.
The USGS has drastically lowered its estimate of Alaska's NPRA oil reserves:

The National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPRA) is a piece of land owned by the United States federal government located west of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). While it gets less press than ANWR, it is another target of the "drill baby drill!" crowd. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has just released a revised estimate on the amount of "undiscovered" oil and gas that is likely to be found in the area, and let's just say that it is a cold shower for fans of more drilling in Alaska....

Considering that the world consumption of oil has been hovering around 85 million barrels per day, and the U.S. represents about a quarter of that, there's only enough oil in NPRA to fuel the world for about 10-12 days, or the US for about 45 days.

Drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation is on hold, temporarily:

Governor Rendell declared the Marcellus Shale tax dead for 2010 last week, due to Republicans being assholes who wouldn’t agree to anything higher than a 1.5% tax. One-point-five percent. Jesus. That’s what we get for subjecting our state to fracking and the threat of erupting natural gas wells?

Anyway, the Governor today decided that if we’re not taxing it, they’re not drilling it, so he signed an executive order at Penn Treaty Park today halting new drilling in Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania.
(h/t: Karin.)

Geothermal energy is expected to grow 78 percent by 2015:

According to ABS Energy's research, only 10 projects, totaling 405-megawatts, were commissioned in 2009. The geothermal power projects were located in the United States (181 MW), Indonesia (137 MW), Turkey (47 MW), and Italy (40 MW). The report states the requirement of high up-front investment along with high risk associated with developing geothermal projects as the chief catalysts for the tough year.

Nevertheless, the Geothermal Report says the overall outlook for the geothermal industry is positive. ABS Energy expects the global geothermal market to increase 78% between 2010 and 2015; this would bring global capacity to 19,016 MW.

England may use its old waterwheels to generate power:

[O]ver the next ten years, thousands of homes and communities will be encouraged to restore dilapidated water wheels and mills – or build small-scale hydro-electric power plants as part of a drive for green energy.

According to Climate Change Minister Greg Barker, our rivers and streams are ‘a great untapped source of power’ and could generate as much electricity as a nuclear power station.

A federal judge has ruled that the US Army must inform residents of Oahu's Makua Valley about the environmental effects of its live-fire training:

U.S. District Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway ruled that the Army failed to give the community crucial information on how military training at Makua Military Reservation on the island of Oahu could damage Native Hawaiian cultural sites and contaminate marine resources on which area residents rely for subsistence.

Palestine and Israel have both signed a cooperative agreeement on climate change:
Israel and the Palestinian Authority are among 15 Mediterranean nations who have just signed a historic agreement to work together to combat the effects of climate change, one month ahead of the next United Nations conference on climate change, meeting at Cancun in November....

Both Israel and Palestine are acutely aware of their vulnerability to climate change, which is expected to make water resources even more scarce for what is already the most water-stressed highly populated area in the world.

Sierra Leone has withdrawn its flag of convenience for fishing vessels:

Sierra Leone is closing its international shipping registry to foreign-owned fishing vessels in a move intended to reduce illegal catches in its seas and around the world, the fisheries minister said on Thursday.

Officials said the West African country -- notorious as a so-called "flag of convenience" with minimum enforcement of maritime regulations -- was the first such nation in the world to implement the measure.

Palau has established a huge new marine sanctuary:
Dolphins, whales, and dugongs will be safe from hunting in the waters surrounding the Pacific nation of Palau. At the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan, Palau's Minister of the Environment, Natural Resources and Tourism, Harry Fritz, announced the establishment of a marine mammal sanctuary covering over 230,000 square miles (600,000 square kilometers) of the nation's waters, an area the size of Ukraine....

"Palau, which once supported the Japanese position on commercial whaling, now supports conserving marine mammals, along with sharks and other species. By aiding economic development through ecotourism, Palau recognizes the importance of keeping these species alive and thriving," Dr. Susan Lieberman, director of international policy for the Pew Environment Group, said in a statement, adding that "we call on other countries large and small to follow Palau's example."
Worldwide cases of polio are dropping:

The world's largest, most intractable source of polio may be on the brink of elimination. In India the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have produced more polio cases this decade—nearly 5,000—than any other location worldwide that has an active immunization campaign. Nigeria saw a handful more cases than the two Indian states because it effectively ceased immunizing in 2003 for a time due to false fears of the vaccine.

Now, even at the peak of polio season, new cases in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and indeed all of India hover near zero—unprecedented, historic lows.
No Tech Magazine directs our attention to a modest proposal for a value extracted tax:
In our society, high taxes on labor drive businesses to minimize the number of employees. Resources remain untaxed, so we use them unconstrained. This system causes both unemployment and scarcity of resources.

Eckart Wintzen (1939-2008) proposed a system change called Value Extracted Tax. VET brings tax on resources up and tax on labor down. This creates an incentive to use abundant and recycled materials. Lower taxes on labor make services more affordable. Every sector requiring manpower, craftsmanship and creativity will benefit from lower labor costs.
Russia has donated copies of ten American silent films to the Library of Congress, none of which are in US archives:
Russia tended to keep the films that were sent to it for distribution, whereas American studios all too often disposed of their silent features once they no longer had any commercial value. The Library of Congress is negotiating not only with Russia but with archives in France, Czechoslovakia and the Netherlands, so we can look forward to many more such happy homecomings.
Also, luminous Orientalism. Bird photos by Gerry Sibell. Animated mechanisms. Anaglyphic stereoviews. And via wood s lot, the Dutch Nationaal Archief:

For sale: One 70-ton map, used only on Sundays. Metro maps and salt paper prints. Microphotography and the pigeon post. Vintage linen postcards. And collages by Kiyoshi Yamashita.

Jenny Odell's Satellite Collection (via things). A free and frank exchange of views with a tea-partier. More matchbox labels. And various subjects from the material world:

That's about as much as I can manage today, except for this:

(Photo at top: "Niagara Falls" by Hugh Lee Pattinson, 1840. Via Luminous Lint.)