Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

House Democrats are claiming that they will not allow Bart Stupak's views on abortion to derail healthcare reform:

Anti-choice zealot Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich) overplayed his hand. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced today that the House Democrats will move forward without a deal on abortion coverage.

Why are they finally telling Stupak to pound sand after endless rounds of negotiations? First off, Pelosi had the strategic advantage of having very little to offer Stupak and his shadowy band of anti-choice Democrats. Second, Stupak's alleged coalition is looking more like a paper tiger every day.
In related news, a former teacher named Connie Saltonstall will challenge Stupak in this year's Democratic primary:

"I've had to vote for him because he's a Democrat and not a Republican -- he was not as bad as the other side," she said. But Saltonstall said Stupak's stance on abortion in the health care debate "crossed the line" for her.

"That has happened not only with me but with many Democrats in the district," she said. Saltonstall told me her phone has been ringing off the hook with calls of support from inside the massive 31-county district.

A group called Catholics for Marriage Equality has launched a Website that expresses the following shocking opinions.
As Roman Catholics, we differentiate between sacramental marriage and civil marriage. Therefore, we perceive that same-sex civil marriage poses no threat to our Church....

We remember that Roman Catholics were once denied civil rights, treated with suspicion, ridiculed because of our sacred rituals, and questioned as to our allegiance to “foreign authorities.” Memory challenges us to remain vigilant whenever bigotry and injustice enters into public discourse.
Seems pretty reasonable to me.

Forty-eight Hawaiian species will gain long-overdue ESA protections:
In response to a 2004 petition and two lawsuits from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it is finalizing listing for 48 species from the island of Kauai with designation of critical habitat. Most of the species are plants, and many have been waiting decades for protection. Two birds, Akekee (Kauai akepa) and Akikiki (Kauai creeper), were also included....

Of the 48 species, 31 have been waiting for protection on the candidate list, in many cases for more than 20 years.
Golden sedge (Carex lutea) will also receive be protected:
“This proposal is a lifeline for the golden sedge,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Protecting critical habitat for this rare and delicate species will give it a chance for survival and recovery.”

Only eight populations of golden sedge are known today, limited to an area within a two-mile radius of the Onslow/Pender County line in southeastern North Carolina. Threats to the plant’s existence include fire suppression; habitat alteration such as land conversion for residential, commercial, or industrial development, mining, drainage for silviculture and agriculture, and highway expansion; and herbicide use along utility and highway rights-of-way.
The Maldives has designated its territorial waters as a shark sanctuary:
[T]he island nation has declared 90,000 square kilometers of the Indian Ocean a safe-haven for sharks, banning shark fishing as well as any trade in shark fins.
The EU has announced that it will support a ban on the Atlantic bluefin tuna trade:
Conservation groups applauded a decision today by the 27-nation European Union (EU) to support a ban on international commercial trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna, to be voted on at a wildlife trade convention starting this weekend.

The EU said it would vote to list Atlantic bluefin tuna on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), joining a growing list of supporting countries, including the United States of America....
And the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies is urging its members to stop using tiger bones in traditional medicine:
“Tiger conservation has become a political issue in the world. Therefore, it’s necessary for the traditional Chinese medicine industry to support the conservation of endangered species, including tigers,” said Huang Jianyin, deputy secretary of WFCMS.

The statement also calls on all WFCMS’ members to promote tiger conservation and encourages them to abide by all relevant international and national regulations on wildlife trade.
One of the world's rarest flowers is blooming:
[T]he Middlemist's Red exists in only two known locations: a greenhouse in the UK, and a garden in New Zealand. Imported to Britain two hundred years ago from China, back when flowers where a luxury item, it has since been exterminated in its original homeland.

That the Middlemist's Red survives today is conservation success story. "It's the importance of getting as many people as possible to ensure they stay with us on this Earth," Fiona Crumley, the head gardener at the Chiswick House told the BBC.

For the first time in a century, a condor has laid an egg in Pinnacles National Monument.
The egg is the latest encouraging development in the slow recovery of the endangered birds in the regions they historically inhabited. The effort has been hampered by hunters and lead poisoning of the birds.

A female released in the park in 2004 and a male released the same year 30 miles west at Big Sur had been observed engaged in courtship behavior earlier this year, Carl Brenner, a park spokesman, said.

“They are now the proud parents of a small egg,” Mr. Brenner said.

Colorado is increasing its renewable energy standard:
On March 5, the state Senate approved a measure to increase Colorado’s renewable energy standard (RES) to 30% by 2020, and on March 8th, the House finalized the bill, sending it to Gov. Bill Ritter for his signature.

The legislation confirms Colorado’s leadership in nurturing the development of clean, renewable energy just six years after voters approved the state’s first RES – 10% by 2015. In 2006 the state legislature doubled the RES to 20% by 2020, and with enactment of the latest measure only California will have a set a more ambitious state requirement than Colorado, 33% by 2020.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will replace older diesel trucks:
Did you know that replacing a pre-1994 diesel truck (or at least the engine) with a 2004-2006 model could cut soot pollution by about 2/3, and reduce smog-forming nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions by more than half? Post 2007 diesel trucks are even better, with a reduction of soot particles by about 95% and NOx by at least 3/4. That's a pretty big difference (though it doesn't solve CO2 emissions), and it especially matters in big ports where countless diesel trucks congregate every day. This is why the EPA along with partners are announcing a program to replace the dirtiest trucks servicing the port of NY/NJ.
British MPs are putting pressure on BP and Royal Dutch Shell in regard to tar sands.
British Members of Parliament have joined the campaign to force two of the world's biggest energy companies to provide more information on their oil-sands operations, adding to the pressure the firms will face at their upcoming annual meetings.
In response to legal action, Walmart has agreed to improve the design of two proposed supercenters:
The Center for Biological Diversity has settled two lawsuits brought against Walmart over the global warming impacts of proposed Supercenters in Perris and Yucca Valley, California. The settlement requires Walmart to install three rooftop solar facilities of at least 250 kilowatts, incorporate cutting-edge efficiency measures into the design of the proposed stores, and implement a refrigerant audit and improvement program at certain existing Walmart stores in California....

The Yucca Valley settlement also includes a $120,000 contribution to the Mojave Desert Land Trust for land-conservation purposes and acknowledges the right of the Coalition for Environmental Integrity of Yucca Valley, also a party to the Yucca Valley settlement, to endorse a ballot initiative prohibiting development of the Supercenter and other discount superstores in the Town of Yucca Valley.
A new approach to creating solar cells could cut production costs substantially:
[A] company called 1366 Technologies may have found a way to [reduce costs] by growing a nearly pure wafer directly from melted silicon rather than forming an ingot that is then sawed. The idea could cut wafer costs by as much as 80 percent....

That may make silicon photovoltaics, which are the most efficient currently at turning sunlight into electricity, as cheap as thin-film solar cells, whose advantage is cost but which are not as good at creating electric current. In fact, rapidly decreasing cost for solar power means some experts expect such distributed electricity generation to cost the same or less than electricity from today's grid by as soon as 2015.
An Illinois Democrat has made a sensible proposal:
Birds may see pleasanter skies in the US soon, if Congressman Mike Quigley has his way. Quigley, a democrat from Illinois, has introduced legislation that would require all federal buildings to become bird-friendly, potentially saving the lives of millions of birds every year....

The legislation would require every building constructed, acquired, or altered by the General Services Administration (GSA) to use bird-friendly design and materials to the maximum extent feasible.
Zion National Park -- one of my favorite places on earth -- will wisely incorporate soundscape management into its planning process:
Park Superintendent Jock Whitworth has announced two open houses in March on the topic, and public comments are being accepted until April 9 as part of an initial information-gathering stage. This will inform the drafting of a Soundscape Management Plan Environmental Assessment, which will aim to to link soundscape management to the existing park management direction, and “ensure that natural soundscapes are protected for present and future generations.”
Photo by David Iliff

IBM claims to have developed a new form of recyclable, plant-based plastic:
Not only are the material’s components greener than traditional petroleum-based products, the production process uses significantly less energy....

The new compounds can be up-cycled and down-cycled into many different types of plastics. A plastic bottle can have a new life as a car bumper. Previously it was difficult to remake polymer compounds that retain the strength of the original materials.
"People" who "live" in the grubby socialist hellholes of Old Europe seem to be embracing NoMix toilets:
Now that we know that NoMix toilets are being positively received in pilot programs, I think the next step is to expand those pilot programs in Europe and to start preparing the general public in North-America to the idea that there might be a better way to deal with human waste (and in this case, waste is a bit of a misnomer; it's actually a great resource if we capture the methane to make electricity and use the nitrogen and phosphorus).
Los Angeles has come up with an innovative recycling program:
Los Angeles is about to start a new pilot program with the innovative company RecycleBank. About 15,000 homes will be eligible for the program. Their recycling bins will be tagged, and with every pickup the weight of the stuff they recycle will be recorded. Based on how much they recycle, each household will get RecycleBank "points" that they can redeem at businesses such as CVS, Bed Bath & Beyond, and El Pollo Loco, among others. Apparently, the total tally could reach the equivalent of $400 a year per household.
David Roberts discusses some benefits of the proposed Rural Energy Savings Program.
First off, rural homes -- over 20 percent of which are manufactured homes -- are substantially less efficient than their urban and suburban counterparts. That's why, even though their homes are generally smaller and their electricity is generally cheaper, the average rural household pays $200-$400 more a year on energy bills than comparable urban households. And given that they make roughly $10,000 less per year, that's not chump change.

Second, rural Americans are precisely the ones most politically hostile to climate action, which they see as a liberal political program that primarily benefits cities and coastal elites. Direct energy benefits to rural homeowners could help change the political landscape and ease further action.

The IPCC's conclusions on AGW, and the process it used to arrive at them, will be reviewed by the world's science academies.
The Inter-Academy Council has been asked to finalise its conclusions by August, in time that its recommendations can be discussed and adopted at October's IPCC meeting.
Of course, all these academies accept AGW, so we can't trust anything they say. What's needed here is some healthy skepticism (by which I mean rigid, ineducable, angry disbelief, coupled with a fanatical commitment to circumstantial ad hominem).

Meanwhile, the EPA has agreed to regulate ocean acidification under the Clean Water Act:
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has agreed to consider how states can address ocean acidification under the Clean Water Act. The settlement responds to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity that challenged EPA’s failure to recognize the impacts of acidification on coastal waters off the state of Washington. The suit, brought under the Clean Water Act, was the first to address ocean acidification....

According to the settlement, EPA will initiate a public process for the EPA to develop guidance on how to approach acidification under the federal Clean Water Act. Specifically, EPA will consider a provision of the Act that requires states to identify threatened or impaired waters and set limits on the input of pollutants into these waters.
And the White House is finalizing a national law limiting car emissions:
The new regulations aim to raise vehicles’ fuel economies to an average of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, a 42 percent increase from the current average of 25 miles per gallon....

While the new standards represent a huge increase over the average fuel economy, many new vehicles (especially hybrids) already get 35 miles per gallon or more. Still, the legislation is significant because it sets the first national standard for car and truck emissions. Previously, emissions standards were dictated by states.
Hospitals are increasingly reusing "single-use" medical equipment:
Health care is the second largest contributor to waste production in the United States. (The food industry holds the dubious distinction of being the first largest contributor.) So, it’s significant that more than 25 percent of U.S. hospitals now reprocess medical devices as a way to decrease waste –and cut costs.....

[T]he FDA now allows the reprocessing of more than 100 different items previously designated as “single-use devices” (SUDs). And, in an opinion piece in this month’s Academic Medicine, researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine say they have found reprocessing to be a “commonsense strategy” that has a “reliable safety record of excellence identical to that of new equipment, while being friendlier to the environment.”
Read the whole article to discover why these devices was originally designated for only one use. Or if you're short on time, take a wild guess.

Scientists are using brain imaging to quantify the effects of Gulf War Syndrome:
Nearly two decades after vets began returning from the Middle East complaining of Gulf War Syndrome, the federal government has yet to formally accept that their vague jumble of symptoms constitutes a legitimate illness. Here, at the Society of Toxicology annual meeting, yesterday, researchers rolled out a host of brain images – various types of magnetic-resonance scans and brain-wave measurements – that they say graphically and unambiguously depict Gulf War Syndrome....

The panoply of quantitative changes being revealed by brain imaging “is demystifying Gulf War Syndrome,” says Haley. Indeed, before long, he predicts, “we’re going to come up with tests whereby doctors can diagnose affected vets.” And one day, he hopes, the information emerging from these images may actually point toward treatments.
This is interesting:
As they scrambled recently to trace the source of a salmonella outbreak that sickened hundreds around the country, investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used a new tool for the first time — the frequent-shopper cards that millions of Americans swipe when they buy groceries.

With permission from the victims, investigators followed the trail of grocery purchases to a Rhode Island company that makes salami, then zeroed in on the pepper it used to season the meat.

Never before has the CDC successfully mined the mountain of data that supermarket chains compile.
As is this:
Taking the contraceptive pill can help women live longer and reduce their risk of serious diseases, according to a major new study by Scottish researchers.

They found that women who had taken the Pill – even for a short time – could expect to have longer lives than those who had never used oral contraception. The research, led by the University of Aberdeen, showed those who took the Pill were less likely to die from any cause – including all types of cancer – and heart disease.
That said: Collages by Larry Carlson (h/t: Peacay, IIRC). Typographical kaleidoscopes. Sunken forests. Dueling food pyramids. Vintage Popular Science articles on Japan. Helene from Cassini. And via Coudal, the EPA's Documerica Project.

Solarization. The Dreyfus Affair on film. The Society for Commercial Archaeology. Photos of the Swiss Alps by Stefan Somogyi. Photos of water by Chris Wabb. And the world's first Intra-Space Stamp Album.

Toronto Sound Ecology (via BLDGBLOG). Yukon aurora with star trails. The Lost Border (via wood s lot). Bioephemera. Paintings by Rose Wylie. The Coral Reef Crochet Project. And a collection of handmade gameboards.

And here's a cartoon.

(Photo at top from "Archäologie der Arbeit" by Fritz Fabert.)


Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Nanette said...

I love the condor story, Phila. Well, and everything else too, but that just struck a cord for some reason. Not sure why - I have no special affinity for condors, as far as I know.