Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

A court has overturned Florida's ban on gay adoption:

In a 28-page opinion, a three-judge panel of the court noted that gay people are permitted to become foster parents or legal guardians in Florida, yet are the only group not allowed to adopt.

“It is difficult to see any rational basis in utilizing homosexual persons as foster parents or guardians on a temporary or permanent basis, while imposing a blanket prohibition on those same persons,” wrote Judge Gerald Cope for the panel. “All other persons are eligible to be considered case-by-case to be adoptive parents.”

New York's new Smart Growth act will take effect next week:
On August 31, 2010, Governor David Paterson signed into law the Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act, which is intended to...augment the state's environmental policy by declaring a fiscally prudent state policy of maximizing the social, economic and environmental benefits from public infrastructure development through minimizing unnecessary costs of sprawl development including environmental degradation, disinvestment in urban and suburban communities and loss of open space induced by sprawl....
The Obama administration has issued an emergency order that tightens safety standards in coal mines:
Citing a "grave danger" to the nation's coal miners, the Obama administration said Tuesday that mine operators must take additional steps to control the buildup of highly explosive coal dust underground....

Experts from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health urged a toughening of federal 'rock dusting' standards in reports published in 2006 and 2009. But MSHA officials did not act until another NIOSH report was published this May, a month after 29 miners died in an explosion at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County.

California has passed new renewable energy regulations:
The California Air Resources Board approved one of the strictest renewable energy regulations in the nation Thursday, requiring utilities to get a third of their energy from renewable resources by 2020....

When fully implemented, the renewable energy standard will remove between 12 million and 13 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, along with other pollutants, according to the air board. It also will be one the more important steps toward meeting California's greenhouse gas reduction law, AB32, which requires the state return to 1990 emissions levels by 2020.
Central American countries are using volcanoes for power:
Guatemala, which already has two geothermal plants, is offering tax breaks on the equipment needed to build more in hopes of getting 60 percent of its power from a combination of geothermal and hydroelectric sources by 2022. Costa Rica already operates four plants and will bring a fifth online early next year; it’s considering an additional two. El Salvador and Nicaragua are also expanding geothermal power from volcanoes.
The United States is donating $50 million for clean-burning stoves in the developing world:
Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced a public-private partnership called the Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves to which the US government will donate $50 million to increase the number of clean burning cook stoves in the developing world. In less developed nations, most people cook on stoves that use wood, kerosene or dung for fuel, which can be a major source of pollution for the home and the environment. They release climate change-causing smoke into the air and can cause terrible respiratory problems for the people who use them — it is estimated they cause 1.9 million deaths yearly. This new initiative will put clean burning stoves into the hands of about 100 million people worldwide by 2020.
Orangutans seem to be able to survive in timber plantations:
Selectively logged forests and timber plantations can serve as habitat for orangutans, suggesting that populations of the endangered ape may be more resilient than previously believed, reports research published in the journal PlosONE....

"This is important news for orangutan conservation because this iconic species is highly endangered with extinction in the wild," said Meijaard. "Their native habitat in Indonesia and Malaysia has been much reduced in size and fragmented, and hunting of these apes continues in many parts of their range."
German researchers have discovered a new species of ape:
The new species was discovered in rainforests between the borders of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia: an area that contains a number of gibbon species.

The new species had been thought by past researchers to be the yellow-cheeked gibbons (Nomascus gabriellae), however analysis of the animals’ DNA and distinct calls convinced researchers that although the species looks almost exactly like yellow-cheeked gibbons, they were in fact a wholly different gibbon.

Both of the gibbons belong to the family of 'crested gibbons', one of the most imperiled groups of mammals in the world.
Scientists have also rediscovered several species of amphibian that were thought to be extinct:
A search for 100 of the world's 'lost amphibians'—unseen for decades and in many cases supposed extinct—have turned up three species so far, one of which hasn't been recorded since the Nazis were bombing London. The lost amphibian expeditions, formed by Conservation International (CI) and the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG), have found surviving populations of the cave splayfoot salamander (Chiropterotriton Mosaueri) in Mexico, the Mount Nimba reed frog (Hyperolius Nimbae) in the Ivory Coast, and the Omaniundu reed frog (Hyperolius sankuruensis) from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The recently rediscovered Mount Nimba reed frog. Photo © Ngoran Germain Kouame.
Palm oil plantations built on peatlands will be ineligible for carbon credits under the CDM:
Plantations on peatlands will no longer be supported by the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), a framework for industrialized countries to reduce their emissions via projects in developing countries, reports Wetlands International.

The decision, which came last Friday during the executive board meeting, will bar biofuel plantations established on peatlands from earning carbon credits that could then be sold to industrialized countries to "offset" emissions. The concern is that under the CDM, carbon finance is used to perversely subsidize conversion of carbon-dense peatlands for oil palm plantations, a process that generates substantial greenhouse gas emissions, thereby undermining any potential carbon dioxide savings from use of palm oil-based biodiesel.
In related news, General Mills has agreed to stop buying palm oil from unsustainable sources:

Environmentalists on Friday praised a decision by U.S. food-maker General Mills to stop buying palm oil from companies accused of rain forest destruction — the latest in a string of multinationals to announce policy reversals....

"We are concerned about the role of palm oil expansion in the deforestation of the world's rain forests," the company announced on its website.

Common bacteria may be able to degrade AZO dyes in textile effluent:
Certain species of lactic-acid bacteria produce a red coloration when combined with tartrazine, a yellow food-coloring agent—commonly known as FD&C Yellow No. 5—that belongs to a class of synthetic chemicals known AZO dyes. During testing, ARS researchers noticed that several Lactobacilli also modified other AZO dyes, including those used and discharged by the textile industry into wastewater streams
Hooray, says I, for ornithopters!

Aviation history was made when the University of Toronto's human-powered aircraft with flapping wings became the first of its kind to fly continuously....For centuries engineers have attempted such a feat, ever since Leonardo da Vinci sketched the first human-powered ornithopter in 1485.

But under the power and piloting of Todd Reichert, an Engineering PhD candidate at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS), the wing-flapping device sustained both altitude and airspeed for 19.3 seconds, and covered a distance of 145 metres at an average speed of 25.6 kilometres per hour.

You can see a video of the flight here.

In other aviation news, keep watching the skies!
Witness testimony from more than 120 former or retired military personnel points to an ongoing and alarming intervention by unidentified aerial objects at nuclear weapons sites, as recently as 2003. In some cases, several nuclear missiles simultaneously and inexplicably malfunctioned while a disc-shaped object silently hovered nearby. Six former U.S. Air Force officers and one former enlisted man will break their silence about these events at the National Press Club and urge the government to publicly confirm their reality.
Surely it's no coincidence that the United States and Russia have asked the IAEA to safeguard the plutonium removed from their nuclear weapons. Cheryl Rofer explains:
This is a good thing in the immediate sense that there should be international oversight of that material and in the larger sense that the United States and Russia are opening up weapon-related stuff to inspection.
Researchers have discovered a letter in a previously unknown language:

"Our investigations determined that this piece of paper records a number system in a language that has been lost for hundreds of years," Jeffrey Quilter, an archaeologist at Harvard's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, said.

A photograph of the letter recently released by archaeologists shows a column of numbers written in Spanish and translated into a language that scholars say is now extinct.

Addictive ads (1894-1954). The Hand Drawn Map Association (via things). Money art by Kristima Lakoff. The good old days of Letraset. Scenes from the 35th Parallel. Pomological watercolors and Bheoir Lochlannachis. The Edison Mental Fitness Test (I got 86 percent, which makes me an unemployable failure). And the National Maritime Museum's astronomy photographs of the year.

Robots! The song of the blue wren anatomized. The fire syringe anatomized. Emblemata amatoria, and how. Building NASA. The UK Sound Map. Cortot discoveries. Sketches by João Cristino da Silva. Photos by Carl Curman. Photos by Sakis Dazanis.

"When thou a Dangerous Way dost goe, Walke surely, though thy pace be slowe." Apropos of which, dust models. New views of Saturn's aurora. Vesuvius 1944 and Klyuchevsky 2010. Randomized cryptozoology via Tops and Tails. "Coming Attractions" slides are among the coming attractions at Starts Thursday! Also, painted photographs.

And a short film about seashells, dedicated to someone very sweet.

(Image at top: "This series of images from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows a dark mass of gas and dust, called a core, where new stars and planets will likely spring up." Via NASA.)


Emily said...

So good to see you back with these weekly posts!

Would you be at all offended if I borrowed any of these links to post on my own little upstart blog? (Eventually. I have a backlog.)

Phila said...



Please help yourself to as many links your heart can stand, with my blessing.

Anonymous said...

Lovely. Thank you.

Phila said...


CK said...

When you stopped blogging earlier this summer, I found my Fridays less, well, hopeful. Then I got concerned -- surprised me, since I've had no connection with you beyond reading your amazing collections of sometimes small reasons why we should still have hope. Now people drop out of the blogosphere all the time, and for all kinds of good reasons. But I was cheered this a.m. at finding new posts up, and am eager to click through and see what you have found. Thanks for your efforts!

Phila said...

Thanks, CK.

I've been very busy, but I hope to ease myself gradually back into blogging.

Emily said...

Need a nudibranch?
(Just found this, and I thought of you.)