Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

First things first: If you haven't yet donated to a humanitarian organization working in Haiti -- or even if you have -- you might consider giving some money to AIDG and Partners in Health, both of which have been doing valuable infrastructure-related work in Haiti for years.

Treehugger has a list of other organizations that are working on longer-term projects for improving the quality of life in Haiti. For a list of organizations that are working to provide immediate relief, click here.

A new study finds that healthcare in New Orleans is better than it used to be.

[D]espite being disproportionately low-income and uninsured...patients had fewer problems affording care and fewer instances of medical debt and inefficient care than most U.S. adults....

According to the authors, this shows that the post-Katrina primary care pilot program -- a system that relies primarily on a large network of local clinics funded by federal and local government, and given financial incentives to improve care -- could serve as a national model for providing primary care to vulnerable groups.
A Nevada state judge has thrown out a proposed "personhood" initiative.
The Nevada Personhood initiative proposed to amend the state Constitution by defining a person and extending due process rights from the beginning of biological development through end of life. The petition does not specifically mention abortion, but says its intent is to codify "the inalienable right to life for everyone, young or old, healthy or ill, conscious or unconscious, born or unborn."

Carson City District Court Judge James Russell said the measure was too broad and general in nature to be put before voters in November.
And a DC court has rejected an anti-gay marriage initiative supported by Congressional Republicans who clearly hate America:
The lawsuit was brought by several national anti-gay activists and backed by 39 Republican members of Congress....

“This second, back-to-back ruling by the D.C. Superior Court is an overwhelming victory for fairness, the rule of law and the protection of all D.C. residents against discrimination,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “D.C. has the right to govern itself and make its own laws without the interference of thirty-nine Republican members of Congress, more interested in scoring cheap political points than in the everyday lives of D.C. residents."
Speaking of Human Rights Campaign, they've created a new iPhone application that helps consumers support businesses that support LGBT equality:
The Buying for Equality iPhone application puts information directly in the hands of consumers in an easy to read format that divides businesses and their consumer products into red (brands to avoid), yellow (brands that have made some progress) and green (brands to support)....

These color-coded rankings are based on a company’s score on the HRC Corporate Equality Index, a nationally recognized benchmark that scores major American corporations based on their workplace policies and commitment to fairness for their LGBT employees.
Canada's Supreme Court has rejected the arguments of a Roman Catholic who refused to pay taxes because the money might be used for abortions:
The New Brunswick Court of Appeal, in a ruling last summer, concluded paying taxes does not equate to support of any particular government policy.

The appeal court also found that legitimizing Little's claim would mean that anyone who opposed a government policy could dodge paying taxes, while still receiving public benefits, such as medical care.
With that in mind, perhaps we ought to repeal the Hyde Amendment.

Mongolia has announced a moratorium on executions:
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Friday hailed a move by Mongolia's president to introduce a moratorium on the death penalty, saying that it sets a "leadership example in Asia."

President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj on Thursday told lawmakers that all death sentences -- carried out by gunshot -- would be commuted to 30-year prison terms, as he could not bring himself to sign any execution orders.
And Nepal's Maoist army is discharging its child soldiers:
Marking a milestone in Nepal's shaky peace process, around 200 former Maoist child soldiers from the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the Maoists' military wing, were discharged on 7 January after spending the last three years in the camp.

They are the first of around 3,000 young disqualified Maoist ex-combatants, a third of whom are female, to be released by mid-February from seven Maoist cantonments across the country....Their discharge was agreed under a December 2009 plan signed by the government, the Maoists and the UN.
Endangered jaguars will receive habitat protections.
In a far-reaching reversal of Bush administration policy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it will designate critical habitat for endangered jaguars in the United States and develop a jaguar recovery plan....

Critical habitat designation will result in protection for large swaths of the Southwest, a region that jaguars used to call home but in which they’re now rarely found. A recovery plan for the jaguar will provide a road map for recovery of jaguars to the United States, whether through natural migration or reintroduction.
A breeding population of a little-known bird has been found in Afghanistan.
"Practically nothing is known about this species, so this discovery of the breeding area represents a flood of new information on the large-billed reed warbler," said Colin Poole, Executive Director of WCS's Asia Program. "This new knowledge of the bird also indicates that the Wakhan Corridor still holds biological secrets and is critically important for future conservation efforts in Afghanistan."

A new bird has been discovered in Borneo:
While walking along a 250 meter-high canopy-walkway set-up for tourists, Richard Webster discovered a bird he didn't recognize feeding on mistletoe berries. He took photos of the individual and later shared them with Dr. David Edwards, an ornithologist from Leeds University who has been studying birds in the area for three years. After checking with several museums, they realized that no one had ever recorded such a bird....

The species, known only as the 'spectacled flowerpecker, has not yet received a scientific name.
California is set to embark on its most ambitious dam removal project.
[G]overnment officials and a Monterey water company on Monday agreed to tear down the 106-foot-tall San Clemente Dam. The move is a victory for endangered steelhead trout which for decades have been blocked from their spawning grounds by the obsolete concrete structure on the Carmel River....

"What we're doing here is truly of national significance," said U.S.
Rep. Sam Farr, D-Salinas, who fished in the Carmel River as a boy. "We are going to have some tough days ahead. But it is the right thing to do and we are going to get it done."
San Francisco is shutting down one of the dirtiest power plants in the state:
"Five years ago, San Francisco had two of the most polluting power plants in California," Mayor Gavin Newsom said, referring to Mirant and the Hunters Point plant that closed in 2006. "At the end of this year, we will have no polluting power plants in this city."
Portland General Electric has offered to shut down Oregon's only coal-fired power plant 20 years ahead of schedule:
While a 2020 shutdown is supported by a variety of advocacy groups, some environmentalists are looking to convince regulators and a federal judge that PGE should close it even earlier.

"The best deal for ratepayers and the environment is to close by 2014," said Michael Lang, conservation director at the Friends of the Columbia Gorge. "We'll demonstrate that even PGE's own data supports that conclusion....It seems to me that they're clinging to dirty, outdated technology, but clinging a little less tightly."
And in a victory for indigenous activists, an Interior Department judged has vacated the Black Mesa Coal Complex's permit.
Peabody Western Coal Company’s Black Mesa Coal Complex has suffered a major setback as an administrative law judge for the U.S. Department of the Interior vacated a permit for the massive coal-mining complex. The judge vacated the permit in response to one of several appeals filed by Navajo and Hopi residents as well as a diverse coalition of tribal and environmental groups....
In New Mexico, meanwhile, "the 3,000 members of the Jemez Pueblo are on the verge of building the nation's first utility-scale solar plant on tribal land."
Indian tribes control more than 55 million acres of land across the nation, and those lands are capable of producing an estimated 535 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year from wind power, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Tribal Energy Program. Solar has even greater promise, at 17 trillion kilowatt hours per year, or more than four times the amount of electricity generated annually in the U.S.
Alberta's new energy minister is hinting at the need for controls on the development of oil sands:
Although he gave few details as to how he would do it, environmental groups said his comments mark a dramatic change in Alberta's attitude toward the oil sands.

“I don't think we've ever seen any sort of explicit acknowledgment that the pace and scale of development is something that can be addressed and indeed is something the government of Alberta has the ability to address,” said Simon Dyer, the oil sands program director for the Pembina Institute.
Four oil companies have given up drilling leases on the Rocky Mountain Front near Glacier National Park:
They've returned leases to the Bureau of Land Management - leases that affect about 29,000 acres in the Badger-Two Medicine Area of the Lewis and Clark National Forest....

Occidental Petroleum, Rosewood Resources, X.T.O. Energy, and B-P relinquished the leases without compensation....In 2006, Sen. Max Baucus wrote a provision into federal legislation that says the areas can never be leased again.
The Obama administration is scrapping Bush's idiotic funding guidelines for transportation projects:
"We want to base our decisions on how much transit helps the environment, how much it improves development opportunities and how it makes our communities better places to live," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in announcing the change on Wednesday.

The Bush administration began using a formula in 2005 to approve projects that chiefly relied on commute times and costs, according to LaHood's agency.

In a speech to the Transportation Research Board, LaHood promoted the idea of "livability," or combining transportation options with urban development plans to make it easier for people to move through their towns while lessening the impact on the environment.
Researchers claim to have invented a better, cheaper method for mosquito sampling:
In both field and lab tests, the Prokopack outperformed the current gold standard for resting mosquito surveillance – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Backpack Aspirator (CDC-BP). In addition to having a longer reach, enabling it to collect more mosquitoes than the CDC-BP, the Prokopack is significantly smaller, lighter, cheaper and easier to build....

Mosquito-borne diseases rank among the world's top killers, and Vazquez-Prokopec hopes that more affordable and efficient surveillance methods will help save lives.
For the first time, a salmon farm has been approved by the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program:
The sustainability nod from the consumer education group means that these salmon also will be assigned a green "Best Choice" rating on Seafood Watch's Web site. The approval follows several months of intensive site visits by Seafood Watch scientists and reviews of the company's production facility, feed ratios, fish contaminant and pollution discharge levels, and more.
California has adopted the country's first statewide green building code:
The regulations, called Calgreen, will help the state meet its goal of trimming greenhouse gas emissions by 33 percent by 2020.

Beginning next January, every new building in the state will have to reduce water usage by 20 percent and recycle 50 percent of its construction waste instead of sending it to landfills. Commercial buildings will be required to have separate water meters for indoor and outdoor water use. Mandatory inspections of air conditioner, heat and mechanical equipment will be also be instituted for all commercial buildings over 10,000 square feet.
And, as you've probably heard, the board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has set back the Doomsday clock by one minute.
"We are poised to bend the arc of history toward a world free of nuclear weapons," the board said in a statement. "For the first time since atomic bombs were dropped in 1945, leaders of nuclear weapons states are cooperating to vastly reduce their arsenals and secure all nuclear bomb-making material. And for the first time ever, industrialized and developing countries alike are pledging to limit climate-changing gas emissions that could render our planet nearly uninhabitable."
This is absolutely fascinating (to me, anyway).
[Georges] Méliès’s early shorts were often pirated abroad, and a lot of money was being lost in the American market in particular. After the Lubin company flooded that market with bootleg copies of a 1902 film, Méliès struck back by opening his own American distribution office. Separate negatives for the domestic and foreign markets were made by the simple expedient of placing two cameras side by side. The folks at Lobster realized that those cameras’ lenses happened to be about the same distance apart as 3D camera lenses. By taking prints from the two separate versions of a film, today’s restorers could create a simulated 3D copy!

Two 1903 titles – I think that they were The Infernal Cauldron [Le chaudron infernal] and The Oracle of Delphi [L'oracle de Delphes] – triumphantly showed that the experiment worked....Watching the film through red-and-green glasses, you initially saw nothing in your right eye, while the left one saw the image in 2D. Abruptly, though, the second print materialized, and the depth effect kicked in. The films as synchronized by Lobster looked exactly as if Méliès had designed them for 3D.
As if that weren't enough, illuminated books by Erica Van Horn. Vintage Polish book design. A photo that documents the important role of alarmingly long ladders in zeppelin construction. A steam-powered bi-plane. And Martian tendrils.

And not only that, but forensic landscapes by Emma Wilcox. Photos by Louis Stettner. Photos by Alexis Pike and Zubin Pastakia. Sixteen alternative processes from one negative. The coal-pit Podmoskovnaya and the secret town of Bechyovinka. And via things, photos by Thomas Wrede.

Also: The Known Universe. Entertaining evidence that cars are safer than they used to be. The voluptuous horror of the toad-lily. A lunar spherule. Paintings by Clare Woods. Drawings and photographs by Stephan van den Burg. And photos by Naomi Vanderkindren.

This week, we'll finish things up with a little music.

(Photo at top: "Wheel of Samsara" by Douglas Capron, 2008.)


chris said...

I'd really like to go to Mars "cuz I'm working my way though Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy. On the way I could really enjoy the sounds of space in my steam powered biplane.

Spectacled flowerpecker sounds a bit like what an angry person might call me, and way better than 4-eyed mother... So cool that new species are still being found on our poor tired planet.

Thanks, Phila.

charley said...

it takes a lot of hope to get to the pictures.

yes, i did read most of it.


remember when you could drive around drinking schlitz beer in your car?

it wasn't even illegal. unless you were drunk, which you probably were.