Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

The SEC will require companies to disclose climate risks to investors:

In a 3-to-2 vote, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission determined today that companies “must consider the effects of global warming and efforts to curb climate change when disclosing business risks to investors.”
Two Republican members voted against the disclosure rule, on the grounds that it would "swamp investors with unnecessary information." Joe Romm's response is very much to the point:
That’s what conservatives do — they protect the people from unnecessary information. Thank goodness we didn’t swamp investors with information about risks pertaining to mortgage-backed securities and credit default swaps a few years ago. Who knows what bad decisions they might have made with all that unnecessary information.
An infusion of cash from the stimulus bill has done wonders for the US geothermal industry:
The geothermal energy industry expanded by nearly 50 percent last year in confirmed new U.S. power projects, primarily because of cash from the federal stimulus law, the industry’s trade group said yesterday.

More than 6,440 megawatts of new U.S. projects are planned or under development, up 46 percent from 2008 numbers, the Geothermal Energy Association reported. The industry has a total installed capacity of more than 3,150 megawatts, up from about 2,900 megawatts in 2008.
Stimulus money is also funding this this laudable project:
Some U.S. military veterans are finding work helping sort through a massive government archaeological collection that has been neglected for decades.

The collection dates to the 1930s, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started building dozens of locks, dams and reservoirs, and the ground beneath them was excavated for archaeological treasures.

In recent weeks, U.S. veterans -- many disabled -- have begun processing, cataloguing, digitizing and archiving the collection as part of a one-year $3.5 million project, funded with federal stimulus money.

It's part of the corps' effort to find American Indian cultural items and return them to tribes or their descendants -- something all federal agencies must do under a 1990 law.
The EPA is eliminating a loophole that allowed businesses to hide information about hazardous chemicals from the public:
USEPA has decided that when a chemical company encounters new information about the toxicity of a chemical product, that they must make public the name of that product. It used to be that they could check a box and claim "business confidential information" or "CBI." Pretty much every company did it and as a result there was really no way for the public to see if any new hazards had emerged.
Furthermore, the EPA appears to be formally acknowledging the link between land use and climate change:
This may be the first time that EPA has issued a report the directly links climate change mitigation with local land use strategies. Although this report focuses only on land preservation programs, it may signal the beginning of some thoughtful and needed discussions in area of federalism and climate change.
In California, demolition and cleanup of the Skaggs Island naval base is finally underway.
More than 50 government officials gathered on the long-closed, vandalized Cold War intelligence-gathering facility to mark the demolition's start, and the eventual conversion of more than 3,000 acres into a wildlife preserve.

The naval transfer of the property into the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began many years ago, but the work finally intensified in 2008 with passage of legislation requiring the transfer and $8 million to pay for demolition.
(Photo: Sarah Rohrs/Times-Herald)

The DoJ is taking steps to combat violence against women in Native American communities:
After holding listening sessions with tribal leaders across the nation, [Attorney General Eric Holder] directed all 44 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices with federally recognized tribes in their districts to reinvigorate efforts to combat and prosecute violent crime, particularly against women and children. And he announced an additional $6 million to hire Assistant United States Attorneys—and additional victim specialists—to assist with the ever-growing Indian Country caseload.
A new study shows that states passed more pro-LGBT bills in 2009 than they did in the previous two years:
[D]espite disappointments in 2009, we witnessed a banner year for positive legislation affecting the LGBT community with as many positive bills passed this past year as in 2007 and 2008 combined.” Three hundred “good” LGBT bills were introduced last year and 50 passed, compared to 69 “bad” bills introduced and four passed.

In Wisconsin, public schools will be required to provide information on contraceptives in sex ed classes:
All public schools that teach sex education would be required to instruct students about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases, under a bill headed to Gov. Jim Doyle.

The Democratic governor said Thursday he would sign the bill, which all Republicans opposed....

The bill elicited sharp debate, with Sen. Judy Robson (D-Beloit), a former nurse, saying teaching a solely abstinence-based curriculum has resulted in high rates of teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

"We have done it your way," she told Republicans. "President (George) Bush spent $1.5 billion on abstinence-only education and it failed - it failed miserably."
Scott Roeder has been found guilty on all counts:
In reaction to the verdict, Feminist Majority Foundation president Eleanor Smeal said, "Defense efforts to establish that Roeder's actions were justifiable failed miserably. The jury saw Roeder's actions for what they were: cold-blooded murder."
Satellites are being used to crack down on illegal logging in Madagascar.
Analysts in Europe and the United States are using high resolution satellite imagery to identify and track shipments of timber illegally logged from rainforest parks in Madagascar. The images could be used to help prosecute traders involved in trafficking and put pressure on companies using rosewood sourced from Madagascar.
In Borneo, meanwhile, indigenous communities have won an important court case:
The cases...had been filed by Iban and Malay communities against the Sarawak state government and an oil palm company that planned to establish an oil palm plantation on native lands.

Sarawak High Court Judge Datuk David Wond ruled that local communities have native customary rights over land claimed as state land by the Sarawak state government. In the ruling, the court said "customary practice of Malays must be given the force of law." The Bruno Manser Fund called it a "landmark decision."

See Chee How, a lawyer representing the Iban, called the decisions "a great victory for the people" and said it was "a historic day for Sarawak's native landowners."
Target will no longer sell farmed salmon:
Citing environmental concerns, Target has stopped selling farmed salmon products is working with the Monterey Bay Aquarium to ensure that its wild-caught salmon is sourced responsibly.
The NOAA is increasing its oversight of naval sonar:
NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco has announced a series of sweeping new initiatives designed to push the Navy forward in its efforts to understand and mitigate the impacts of mid-frequency active sonar on marine mammals....

In a clear indication that NOAA may take a more proactive role in pushing the Navy to leave some areas out of its training zones, the letter stresses that “Protecting important marine mammal habitat is generally recognized to be the most effective mitigation measure currently available”....

All in all, this is a remarkable and very productive first step for this administration as it enters the long-contentious waters of active sonar regulation, ocean noise in general.
A Turkish town has banned fireworks displays for the benefit of sea turtles:
Especially during the summer months, the sound of fireworks is part of the evening soundtrack in Turkey, where pyrotechnics are often used to celebrate weddings, football victories, and official ceremonies alike. But a municipality on the country's Mediterranean coast has put the kibosh on such festivities, saying they can fatally frighten endangered sea turtles.

This week, the Kızılot municipality in Antalya's Manavgat district announced that it would ban fireworks during the summer season, when loggerhead sea turtles are breeding along the area's seven-kilometer beach, the Anatolia News Agency reported.
Nevada's Supreme Court has thwarted plans to build a massive pipeline that would siphon groundwater from the north end of the state to Las Vegas.
Critics panned the proposal to channel water, via a 300-mile pipeline, from ranching to casino country as an Owens Valley-like grab. A number of people filed formal objections....

The state Supreme Court ruling sends the parties back to a District Court, which will decide whether the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SWNA) must start the application process anew, as the protesters would like. Alternately, the court could recommend that the state engineer simply reopen the formal protest period.
A new light-based water purification system allegedly works even at night:
According to Technology Review, "Shang and his colleagues tested the photocatalyst by placing it in a solution containing a high concentration of E. coli bacteria and then shining a halogen desk lamp on the solution for varying lengths of time. After an hour, the concentration of bacteria dropped from 10 million cells per liter to just one cell per 10,000 liters."

But the kicker is that it keeps disinfecting for up to 10 hours after the lights go out, which means water can be disinfected even over night. The photocatalyst was shown to kill bacteria for as long as 24 hours after losing its light source.
In related news, a rotavirus vaccine could save hundreds of thousands of lives in the developing world:
For the first time ever, studies in Mexico and Africa, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, demonstrate a reduction in diarrheal disease deaths following rotavirus vaccine introduction in Mexico and vaccine efficacy among impoverished populations in Malawi and South Africa. Both studies underscore the importance of vaccination in achieving significant reduction of severe rotavirus infections among children in the developing world, where disease impact is greatest. Worldwide, rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhea, which takes the lives of more than 500,000 children under 5 every year – with almost half of these deaths occurring in Africa – and causes the hospitalization of millions more.

The findings from these studies informed the World Health Organization's (WHO) recent recommendation that rotavirus vaccines be included in every nation's immunization program.
Dr. Andrew Wakefield, whose claim of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism caused a steep drop-off in vaccinations, has been censured by the UK's medical regulator:
The doctor who first suggested a link between MMR vaccinations and autism acted unethically, the official medical regulator has found.

Dr Andrew Wakefield's 1998 Lancet study caused vaccination rates to plummet, resulting in a rise in measles - but the findings were later discredited.

The General Medical Council ruled he had acted "dishonestly and irresponsibly" in doing his research.
I'm not sure what to make of this...maybe Cheryl will drop by and enlighten me.
Like the carnivorous plant, a new material developed at Northwestern University permanently traps only its desired prey, the radioactive ion cesium, and not other harmless ions like sodium.

The synthetic material, made from layers of a gallium, sulfur and antimony compound, is very selective. The Northwestern researchers found it to be extremely successful in removing cesium -- found in nuclear waste but very difficult to clean up -- from a sodium-heavy solution. (The solution had concentrations similar to those in real liquid nuclear waste.)

It is, in fact, cesium itself that triggers a structural change in the material, causing it to snap shut its pores, or windows, and trap the cesium ions within. The material sequesters 100 percent of the cesium ions from the solution while at the same time ignoring all the sodium ions.
Researchers claim that chimpanzees display altruistic behavior:
Chimpanzees can be altruistic just like humans, according to a new study that found 18 cases of orphaned chimps being adopted in the wild.

The kind-hearted chimp parents were discovered in the Taï forest in the West African country Ivory Coast. The adoptive caregivers, both male and female, devoted large amounts of time and effort to protecting their young charges, without any obvious gain to themselves....

"Based on some of the captive studies, you see very strong claims that what makes humans special is this ability to cooperate and be altruistic toward one another," Boesch told LiveScience. "In that sense the observation of Taï forest requires a big shift in our thinking about what makes us human, in the sense that this ability to be altruistic is something that we also see in chimpanzees."
Additionally, as well, and to boot: Antarctica's ghost mountains. The Efraín Barradas Collection of Mexican and Cuban Film Posters. Photos by Elery Branch. A candid view of Tethys behind Titan. Unidentified people. And Strange Worlds.

Stockholm mapped with old film clips (why doesn't every city have a site like this?). Speaking of which: The Open Road London, an early color film (via Coudal). Beatles infographics. The world's strangest tunnels. Photos by Sandra Louise Dyas. iPhoneography by Jeremy Edwards (via things). Discovering Bewick. And an amazing image of the 7/22/09 solar eclipse.

How trackable is your browser? You can find out at Panopticlick. In other computing news, Hitler responds to the iPad. Which leads us, inevitably, to The Silk Road Online. To say nothing of the Album Amicorum of the European peregrination of Ferenc Pápai Páriz (1711-1726). And the Asian peregrination of Aurel Stein. And The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration in American Culture.

WPA Sin Nombre showcases "Hispana and Hispano artists of the New Deal era." Book Art from the Hamburg Archives. Re:collection, an online archive of Australian graphic design. Banjo Women of West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky. Landscapes by Thomas Ender. Vintage VW bus signage. Zeransky's Collection of Western Film Ephemera. The livros do cordel of northeastern Brazil. And, via things, photos by Ana Himes.

Last, a short but sweet film of Jupiter in rotation.

(Image at top: "Los Angeles Electric Isle" by Brooks Shane Salzwedel, 2008.)


ms fahrenheit said...


rootless-e said...

superior, as usual.- u missed the wind power announcement tho.

chris said...

As America continues it's fervid debate over sex education the situation in Canada is a little different. This was in my regional paper today.
Apparently girls are still dirty, thank heavens.
I suspect a few kids will be taken out of class by their benighted parents and some christian organizations will strain to be heard, but the booklet will become part of the curriculum and the kids will blush and snigger and the world will not end.
Thanks, Phila.

Cheryl Rofer said...

As usual, Phila, I am impressed by the range of good news you have for us.

As to your question to me: The link you've provided sounds plausible enough. My constant reservation about research results like this, however, is whether they can be scaled up.

In this case, the "Venus flytrap" material is likely to be fairly expensive. And I'm wondering if it can be regenerated - if the cesium can be removed in some way so that the material can be used again.

And I do enjoy the pictures and videos.

Phila said...

My constant reservation about research results like this, however, is whether they can be scaled up.

Yeah, I always try to look at stuff like this with that point in mind, thanks largely to your influence. Makes it a lot easier to sift through sites like EurekAlert....

Ana Himes said...

THANKS for mention me in this great blog!!

All the best,