Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

I found that I had a bit of breathing room this morning, and it felt all wrong. Life without stress, deadlines and unremunerated effort is no life at all!

I was at a loss, for a moment, until I remembered that I keep this millstone handy for just such an emergency.

By which I mean that it's good to be back, of course.

Anyway. Increasing women's access to education seems to lower child mortality, for some odd reason.

[R]esearchers at IHME...found 31 countries had improved the average years of schooling of reproductive-age women by more than three years between 1990 and 2009. This includes several countries in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates. In seven of the world's 10 most populous countries, women of reproductive age had on average received more than six years of schooling by 2009, meaning they likely completed primary school.

Most of the countries on pace to meet Millennium Development Goal 4 – reducing the child mortality rate by 66% between 1990 and 2015 – have improved their average years of schooling for reproductive-age women faster than the global average of 1.9 years since 1990.
Israel's Supreme Court has ruled that Jerusalem must fund construction of a gay community center:
Thursday’s ruling was the latest sign that a hostile climate toward Jerusalem’s gay community may be abating....

The court said the city must help fund the center because it serves a significant chunk of the city’s population. The city said it would not appeal the decision.

A federal judge has ruled "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" unconstitutional:
A federal judge said she will issue an order to halt the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, after she declared the ban on openly gay service members unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips ruled Thursday that the prohibition on openly gay service members was unconstitutional because it violates the First and Fifth Amendment rights of gays and lesbians.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is closing additional caves and mines to protect bats:
While most important bat caves have long been closed on refuges to protect bats from human disturbance, the new policy also closes mines, which can also be significant roosting and hibernating sites for bats, particularly in western states. Approximately nine different refuges with mine complexes will see these sites made off-limits by the new directive. The agency is also planning to implement new research and monitoring protocols for those caves to address white-nose syndrome.
In the Amazon, indigenous tribes and ranchers are joining forces to combat wildfires:

Facing the worst outbreak of forest fires in three years, cattle ranchers and indigenous tribesmen in the southern Amazon have teamed up to extinguish nearly two dozen blazes over the past three months, offering hope that new alliances between long-time adversaries could help keep deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon on a downward trajectory.

Environmentalists have defeated a logging company in Tasmania:
Gunns Limited, an Australian logging company, that has been engaged in a long-running battle with environmentalists over the firm's cutting of old-growth forests on Tasmania, conceded defeat Thursday, reports the Environment News Service.

Speaking at the ForestWorks conference in Melboure, Australia, Gunns chief executive Greg L'Estrange said the company will transition its operations from native forests to plantations, effectively ending the practice that has won the company so much animosity from green groups over the years.
Apropos of which, it seems that ants may prevent elephants from deforesting the savanna:
These insect defenders might be having an even larger effect on the African savanna ecosystem, the scientists say. When there are enough elephants around, they can destroy so many trees that they convert wooded areas into open grassland. The ants may be preventing that. “It really is a David-and-Goliath type of story,” says Palmer. “These little ants are up against these huge herbivores, protecting trees and having a major impact on the properties of the ecosystems in which they live.”
In Cambodia, threatened vulture populations are rebounding, thanks to conservation efforts:
Cambodia is now the only country in Asia where vulture populations are increasing....

WCS says the vulture population in Cambodia is rebounding as a the result of several programs organized by the Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project. Local communities are paid to protect vulture nests, while vulture food sources are supplemented by ‘vulture restaurants,’ feeding stations that also provide an opportunity to see the birds.
Also in Cambodia, researchers have found surprisingly high numbers of white-shouldered Ibis, which is Asia's rarest waterbird:
The discovery, which exceeds the previous estimate of 330 birds by 30 percent, was welcomed by conservationists.

"Discovering so many White-shouldered Ibis really improves our chances of saving the species," said Hugh Wright, a doctoral student at University of East Anglia and an expert on the species, in a statement. "During this record-breaking count, one of our main sites actually had far fewer birds than in previous surveys. I don’t believe these birds move very far and they were probably still present at that site. Considering previous counts, this means that the actual population could even exceed 500 birds."
Photo: Hugh Wright/UEA

A previously unknown spider species is able to spin 82-foot webs above flowing water:
Researchers Matjaz Kuntner and Ingi Agnarsson of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History found the giant webs suspended across flowing bodies of water. It's the first time any spider has been shown to achieve such a feat, the team reported in a new study....

The scientists are interested in determining how exactly the Darwin bark spiders build their webs across streams, rivers, and lakes. In Madagascar, they observed orb-shaped webs spanning up to 30 square feet, with anchor lines up to 82 feet in length.

Vegetation along the Potomac River is recovering:
The Potomac, which runs through the heart of the United States Capital, has suffered centuries of environmental degradation. Water quality has declined steadily as more humans have populated its watershed. However, according to new research, the river is beginning to benefit from restoration efforts that have improved water clarity and reduced nutrient overload. The result has been a ten-fold increase in native submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). This SAV consists of plant life below the water surface which is an important habitat for fish and other marine life.
Baltimore has finally begun tearing down its "Highway to Nowhere":
The demolition of the roadway will reunite the communities of West Baltimore that have been physically separated since the highway’s construction in the early 1970’s. The full improvement project is scheduled for completion in fall of 2010.
There's more info here.

A federal judge has banned the planting of genetically engineered sugar beets:

[The Center for Food Safety], along with some organic seed producers, sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture, arguing that the USDA did not look carefully enough at the potential impact of cross-pollination before it approved genetically engineered sugar beets.

A federal judge agreed.
The Obama administration claims that it will plug 3,500 oil and gas wells in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Center for Biological Diversity applauded today’s order from the Obama administration to permanently plug nearly 3,500 abandoned oil and gas wells in the Gulf of Mexico. The administration also said about 650 unused production platforms will be dismantled.

“This is an important first step in cleaning up what’s become a dumping ground for the offshore oil and gas industry,” said Peter Galvin, conservation director for the Center. “These old wells can and do leak oil that only adds to the environmental problems the Gulf has suffered in recent decades.”

The tiny Pacific island nation of Kiribati has closed most of its territorial waters to fishing, in the rather touching belief that it will teach the rest of us a lesson: Is there a message you would like to convey to the broader public?

President Anote Tong: We must get away from the idea that one person, one action cannot make a difference. One million is 1+1+1 and so on. Every person and every action is important.... What gives you hope?

President Anote Tong: I refuse to believe that any individual with a conscience would deliberately continue on a business-as-usual path knowing that their actions would result in the demise of others.
Cambridge University researchers have designed a cheap, organic solar cell:

The university team has reportedly come up with a commercial model that combines efficiency improvements, a longer lifespan, low-cost (and low-toxicity) raw materials, a cost-effective manufacturing process, and a product line that focuses on economies of scale and ease of installation. If this can be done, then cheaply produced solar cells have the ability to transform poorer countries and their energy demands.

Researchers may have found a way to render MRSA harmless:
Dr. Shoham identified a bacterial protein, known as AgrA, as the key molecule responsible for the release of toxins. AgrA, however, needs to be activated to induce toxin production. His goal was to block the activation of AgrA with a drug, thus preventing the cascade of toxin release into the blood that can lead to serious infections throughout the body. The screening for AgrA inhibitors was initially carried out in a computer by docking a library of 90,000 compounds and finding out which compounds would fit best into the activation site on AgrA. Subsequently, about one hundred of the best scoring compounds were acquired and tested in the laboratory for inhibition of the production of a toxin that ruptures red blood cells. Seven of these compounds were found to be active. Testing compounds bearing chemical similarity to the original compounds lead to the discovery of additional and more potent compounds. More than a dozen active compounds have been discovered by this method.
The UN hopes to ban DDT (even though it was already banned by Rachel Carson, who is consequently worse than 12 naked Hitlers dancing the macarena on a box of puppies).

"The aim ... is to achieve a 30 percent cut in the application of DDT worldwide by 2014 and its total phase-out by the early 2020s if not sooner," the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement.

As all true patriots know, DDT hasn't been used anywhere on earth since Carson issued her monstrous ukase, so the UN can only be aiming to intensify DDT non-use by nearly a third. This will make lost jobs and productivity 30 percent harder to unlose, and rekill millions who have already been sacrificed to the anti-human death cult of enviro-fascist anophelephilia.

Which is why I support it, natch. (Here's something else we can all agree on: Sasquatch Israel!)

In related unrelated news, French supermarkets are offering self-service wine dispensers:
Astrid Terzian introduced this concept that hearkens back to a bygone era when wine would arrive in Paris shops in tonneaux and consumers would bring their own flagons to fill. But today, Terzian says, she started this scheme in fall 2008 to fill a niche, tapping into two key themes, environmental awareness and the economy. (She actually wanted to buy a wine property and run a B&B but it was too expensive. So she turned to what she says she knew how to do: sales.) The elimination of packaging mass means that the wine can be shipped much more efficiently from a cost and carbon perspective.
Globe Genie will virtually teleport you to random streets worldwide. Just think: People used to say "shut-in" like it was a bad thing. (Link via things.) Furthermore, odd bits of London. And shotgun tracts of the Lower Mississippi. And photographs by Sean D. McCormick. And via wood s lot, photographs by Frank Robert.

William Notman and the Victoria Bridge, Montreal, QC, Canada (1858-1860). Indian textile designs. Vintage mobile cinema. A Soviet menu from 1967. Extremely long exposures (also via things). A Charley Harper mural in the Cincinnati federal building. And a collection of photograms.

Works of Industry of All Nations
. Animated albums. You can now create your own soundtrack for a silent film online, which means you must. Zoomorphic cities vs. caves of Borneo. The lifting of Chicago vs. the undermining of Chicago. Shooting gallery portraiture vs. report cards. And, inevitably, some Eastern European matchbook covers.

And a movie, obviously.

(Photo at top: "Blondin crossing Niagara Falls on the high wire" by J. McPherson. Via Luminous Lint.)


Anonymous said...

Welcome back! I'm glad to her that the gay centre in Jerusalem is real and that the Sasquatch's ethnicity has been established. And the long exposures are amazing.

Anonymous said...

You're back! After a long, dark, hopeless summer, I finally have a spark of light in my life. Welcome back. I missed a weekly dose of good news.

chris said...

Thanks, Phila. Made my day.

Anonymous said...

Glad that you're back, Phila.

Hope that all is well.

- Lars

elbrucce said...


Karin said...

Nice to see you back!

Jazzbumpa said...

I find the barking spider thing to be more creepy than hopeful.

But, hey, that's just me. (shudder)


Anonymous said...

Good to see you back Phila.


Emily said...

who is consequently worse than 12 naked Hitlers dancing the macarena on a box of puppies

This dependent clause wins at least two Internets.

ellroon said...

Hurray!! /throws confetti, gets some in eye, hits side of comment box, falls down...

So glad you allowed stress and millstones to drag you back to your blog!

grouchomarxist said...

Has anyone done the barking spider joke yet?

Oh, dang.

So glad to see you're back, phila!

Kate said...

Oh, there you are.

Anonymous said...

hope returns for all!
thank you