Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

According to the Global Gender Gap Index, the United States actually made a little progress toward gender equality in 2009:

The world is moving toward greater equality between men and women, with Iceland keeping its lead in a ranking of 134 nations and the U.S. climbing into the top 20, according to a report by the World Economic Forum.

The U.S. rose to No. 19 -- jumping 12 positions -- in part because women now hold 33 percent of leading jobs in the administration of President Barack Obama, compared with 24 percent in 2009, the report showed. Still, the country ranked 40th in political empowerment, with Iceland claiming the top spot.

The European Court on Human Rights has fined Russia for banning gay pride parades in Moscow:

The European Court of Human Rights has fined Russia for banning gay parades in Moscow, in an important victory for the country's gay community.

A leading activist, Nikolai Alexeyev, brought the case after the city authorities repeatedly rejected his requests to organise marches....

"This is a crippling blow to Russian homophobia on all accounts," Mr Alexeyev said after the verdict was announced.

In related news, let's hear it for gay embryos!

It looks as though the United States has finally scrapped its plans for an "invisible" border fence:
The Department of Homeland Security, apparently ready to cut its losses on a so-called invisible fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, has decided not to exercise a one-year option for Boeing to continue work on the troubled multibillion-dollar plan involving high-tech cameras, radar and vibration sensors.
The USGS has drastically lowered its estimate of Alaska's NPRA oil reserves:

The National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPRA) is a piece of land owned by the United States federal government located west of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). While it gets less press than ANWR, it is another target of the "drill baby drill!" crowd. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has just released a revised estimate on the amount of "undiscovered" oil and gas that is likely to be found in the area, and let's just say that it is a cold shower for fans of more drilling in Alaska....

Considering that the world consumption of oil has been hovering around 85 million barrels per day, and the U.S. represents about a quarter of that, there's only enough oil in NPRA to fuel the world for about 10-12 days, or the US for about 45 days.

Drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation is on hold, temporarily:

Governor Rendell declared the Marcellus Shale tax dead for 2010 last week, due to Republicans being assholes who wouldn’t agree to anything higher than a 1.5% tax. One-point-five percent. Jesus. That’s what we get for subjecting our state to fracking and the threat of erupting natural gas wells?

Anyway, the Governor today decided that if we’re not taxing it, they’re not drilling it, so he signed an executive order at Penn Treaty Park today halting new drilling in Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania.
(h/t: Karin.)

Geothermal energy is expected to grow 78 percent by 2015:

According to ABS Energy's research, only 10 projects, totaling 405-megawatts, were commissioned in 2009. The geothermal power projects were located in the United States (181 MW), Indonesia (137 MW), Turkey (47 MW), and Italy (40 MW). The report states the requirement of high up-front investment along with high risk associated with developing geothermal projects as the chief catalysts for the tough year.

Nevertheless, the Geothermal Report says the overall outlook for the geothermal industry is positive. ABS Energy expects the global geothermal market to increase 78% between 2010 and 2015; this would bring global capacity to 19,016 MW.

England may use its old waterwheels to generate power:

[O]ver the next ten years, thousands of homes and communities will be encouraged to restore dilapidated water wheels and mills – or build small-scale hydro-electric power plants as part of a drive for green energy.

According to Climate Change Minister Greg Barker, our rivers and streams are ‘a great untapped source of power’ and could generate as much electricity as a nuclear power station.

A federal judge has ruled that the US Army must inform residents of Oahu's Makua Valley about the environmental effects of its live-fire training:

U.S. District Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway ruled that the Army failed to give the community crucial information on how military training at Makua Military Reservation on the island of Oahu could damage Native Hawaiian cultural sites and contaminate marine resources on which area residents rely for subsistence.

Palestine and Israel have both signed a cooperative agreeement on climate change:
Israel and the Palestinian Authority are among 15 Mediterranean nations who have just signed a historic agreement to work together to combat the effects of climate change, one month ahead of the next United Nations conference on climate change, meeting at Cancun in November....

Both Israel and Palestine are acutely aware of their vulnerability to climate change, which is expected to make water resources even more scarce for what is already the most water-stressed highly populated area in the world.

Sierra Leone has withdrawn its flag of convenience for fishing vessels:

Sierra Leone is closing its international shipping registry to foreign-owned fishing vessels in a move intended to reduce illegal catches in its seas and around the world, the fisheries minister said on Thursday.

Officials said the West African country -- notorious as a so-called "flag of convenience" with minimum enforcement of maritime regulations -- was the first such nation in the world to implement the measure.

Palau has established a huge new marine sanctuary:
Dolphins, whales, and dugongs will be safe from hunting in the waters surrounding the Pacific nation of Palau. At the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan, Palau's Minister of the Environment, Natural Resources and Tourism, Harry Fritz, announced the establishment of a marine mammal sanctuary covering over 230,000 square miles (600,000 square kilometers) of the nation's waters, an area the size of Ukraine....

"Palau, which once supported the Japanese position on commercial whaling, now supports conserving marine mammals, along with sharks and other species. By aiding economic development through ecotourism, Palau recognizes the importance of keeping these species alive and thriving," Dr. Susan Lieberman, director of international policy for the Pew Environment Group, said in a statement, adding that "we call on other countries large and small to follow Palau's example."
Worldwide cases of polio are dropping:

The world's largest, most intractable source of polio may be on the brink of elimination. In India the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have produced more polio cases this decade—nearly 5,000—than any other location worldwide that has an active immunization campaign. Nigeria saw a handful more cases than the two Indian states because it effectively ceased immunizing in 2003 for a time due to false fears of the vaccine.

Now, even at the peak of polio season, new cases in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and indeed all of India hover near zero—unprecedented, historic lows.
No Tech Magazine directs our attention to a modest proposal for a value extracted tax:
In our society, high taxes on labor drive businesses to minimize the number of employees. Resources remain untaxed, so we use them unconstrained. This system causes both unemployment and scarcity of resources.

Eckart Wintzen (1939-2008) proposed a system change called Value Extracted Tax. VET brings tax on resources up and tax on labor down. This creates an incentive to use abundant and recycled materials. Lower taxes on labor make services more affordable. Every sector requiring manpower, craftsmanship and creativity will benefit from lower labor costs.
Russia has donated copies of ten American silent films to the Library of Congress, none of which are in US archives:
Russia tended to keep the films that were sent to it for distribution, whereas American studios all too often disposed of their silent features once they no longer had any commercial value. The Library of Congress is negotiating not only with Russia but with archives in France, Czechoslovakia and the Netherlands, so we can look forward to many more such happy homecomings.
Also, luminous Orientalism. Bird photos by Gerry Sibell. Animated mechanisms. Anaglyphic stereoviews. And via wood s lot, the Dutch Nationaal Archief:

For sale: One 70-ton map, used only on Sundays. Metro maps and salt paper prints. Microphotography and the pigeon post. Vintage linen postcards. And collages by Kiyoshi Yamashita.

Jenny Odell's Satellite Collection (via things). A free and frank exchange of views with a tea-partier. More matchbox labels. And various subjects from the material world:

That's about as much as I can manage today, except for this:

(Photo at top: "Niagara Falls" by Hugh Lee Pattinson, 1840. Via Luminous Lint.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

The United States is dismantling its remaining B-53s:

Outside of the nuclear weapons communities, little notice was paid last week to the announcement that authorization had finally come through to begin dismantling the last of the minivan-size B-53s, the most powerful thermonuclear bombs ever deployed in the active U.S. stockpile.

A terror weapon if there ever was one, the 10,000-pound B-53 was designed to deliver an explosion of nine megatons. That is the equivalent of 9 million pounds of TNT, or 600 times the power of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

(h/t: Cheryl.)

An Israeli company is creating a solar generator with 72-percent conversion efficiency:

The difference between the new 3rd generation generators and the 2nd generation generators is that the new model is a combined heat and power, concentrated PV and solar thermal system. What this means is that not only does the system convert solar energy into electricity, it also converts any heat captured in the mirror collectors into electrical and thermal power.

I'm fairly impressed by the appearance of this Dutch waste-to-power plant:

The plant will use the latest and most efficient techniques to process 260,000 to 350,000 tons of waste per year. In turn, this will generate enough electricity for 60,000 households each year....

[Erick] Van Egeraat’s design of the plant makes the incinerator not just a power station, but also an icon on the horizon. Circular openings in the building’s aluminum facade serve to transform the station into a beacon at night, when light from the facility shines through the exterior.

Not just that, but the design allows the light to start as a spark before growing into a ‘flame’ that covers the entire building, before transforming into ‘embers’. Quite a design feat for an incinerator.

To put it another way, Erick van Egeraat is the Albert Speer of envirofascism! Give that idea to a roomful of speedfreak monkeys with typewriters, and you'd have an article by Jonah Goldberg within the hour.

Argentina has created a new law to protect its glaciers:

The law...prohibits the release, dispersal or disposal of substances or contaminants, chemicals or waste of any kind or size in glaciers and periglacial environments. It also prohibited the exploration and explotaition of mines.

Telementoring could help surgeons in remote areas to perform more complex operations:
Telementoring may be an effective way for subspecialist surgeons to assist remotely located general surgeons in the care of patients in need of emergency subspecialty surgical procedures, according to new research findings published in the September issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons....

In a civilian setting, telementoring could have wide-ranging applications for general surgeons in rural medical centers where they must treat a wide range of conditions, often without the breadth of subspecialty expertise needed for all cases.

The word on the street is, you can keep dung out of your drinking water by constructing a vertico-horizontal lattice of crosslinked metallic or xyloid palings characterized by a periodic pattern of spatially homogeneous, gas-permeable interstices. If correct, this would force us to reconsider the basic assumptions of Crosby and Andrews (1944):
Simply fencing off streams and drainage ditches so farm animals can't deposit manure in and around them could cut levels of faecal pollution dramatically, according to scientists. This would protect the health of people exposed to river water and help Britain comply with EU rules on water quality.
It might be worth a shot, I suppose. In related news, a new study in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry says stop running with scissors, or you'll put your eye out.

The moon may be capable of supporting golf courses:
[A]fter a year of analysis NASA today announced that its LCROSS lunar-impact probe mission found up to a billion gallons of water ice in the floor of a permanently-shadowed crater near the moon's south pole.

That's enough, said researchers, to fill 1,500 Olympic-size swimming pools, all from one crater.

Researchers have discovered a fish that dwells 1.75 leagues under the sea:
Fish were not expected to be able to survive so deep, but scientists have captured footage of a new species of a scavenger-hunting snailfish swimming at an astounding 7,000 meters below the surface. The video, taken from an 8,000 meter-deep sea trench in the Southeast Pacific Ocean, showed a level of biodiversity that surprised seasoned marine biologist, who have previously surveyed five other deep sea trenches.

"Our findings […] will prompt a rethink into marine populations at extreme depths," said Alan Jamieson from the University of Aberdeen's Oceanlab, who led the expedition.
A common virus could kill cancer cells:

By the age of five, most people have been exposed to the virus, called reovirus. For some, it can trigger brief episodes of coughing or diarrhea while many other don't develop any symptoms. The body simply overpowers the virus. But what scientists have discovered is that the virus grows like gangbusters inside tumor cells with a specific malfunction that leads to tumor growth. That finding led researchers to ask: Is it possible to use the virus as a treatment?

Amanda Udis-Kessler responds to Albert Mohler:

You describe yourself as a “Christian committed to biblical truth.” To prevent the Tyler Clementis of the world from jumping off bridges, you have to become a Christian as committed to human flourishing as you are to biblical truth – to walk the hard path of Jesus, not the easier one that the Pharisees are presented as following....

You ask in your open letter whether there is anyone who could have stood between that boy and that bridge. The answer is yes. There is exactly one person who could have stood between that boy and that bridge, and that person is you.

(Via Truth Wins Out.)

The New York Subway. Around the world in 65 photos. The tomb of Rudj-Ka. The tippling woodpecker. Kindergarten weaving. And the evolution of type.

De 78 rpm a 33 1/3 rpm. 20 cartazes de filmes B dos anos 1930. The Great White Silence. Views of Moscow from 500 feet. Water skeletons. A mosquito's heart. The Stock Project. And human-animal relations in photo postcards, 1905-1935.

:Photoschau, photomicrography and Polyorama. Globe poster specimens. The Crystal Palace. Activities for the afterlife. And paintings by Leah Fusco.

And a short film.

(Painting at top: "Raita" by Vilho Lampi, 1934. Via wood s lot.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

A federal judge has ordered the U.S. military to stop enforcing DADT:

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips issued a worldwide injunction banning enforcement of the discriminatory and counterproductive policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT). Tuesday's order followed a September ruling by Judge Phillips that found DADT to be an unconstitutional violation of the due process and free speech rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual service members. In an article in Tuesday's New York Times, the newspaper called the decision a "significant milestone for gay rights in the United States."
Florida will not appeal the court ruling that overturned the state's ban on gay adoptions:

The Florida Department of Children and Families announced Tuesday evening that the state agency would not appeal the September decision by the 3rd District Court of Appeals.

"We had weighed an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court to achieve an ultimate certainty and finality for all parties," said Joe Follick, the department's communications director.

"But the depth, clarity and unanimity of the DCA opinion -- and that of Miami-Dade Judge Cindy Lederman's original circuit court decision -- has made it evident that an appeal would have a less than limited chance of a different outcome."

In related news, The Naib posts an interesting chart, and makes a good point:

The problem with the old angry white guy strategy is that old angry white guys are not going to be around for very much longer (especially not with the Republicans trying to privatize social security and Medicaid.) The republican party and old conservatives in general are making a devils bargain for short term gains that will not serve them well in the long run.
New research suggests that a bedrock assumption of evolutionary psychology may not be entirely accurate:
In a study to be published in the journal Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, Miller and her colleagues carried out their own version of Buss and Schmitt's work, asking how much time and money college students spent in a typical week pursuing short-, intermediate- or long-term relationships. The proportion of mating effort dedicated to short-term mating was the same for men and women. Similarly, both men and women showed an equivalent tendency to lower their standards for sex partners, and men did not report feeling constrained to have far fewer sexual partners than they truly desired.
"In more equal actual roles, men and women have more similar mate preferences," Eagly says. "In very different marital roles that confine women to a domestic role, men and women choose differently."
A new type of anaerobic digestion reactor allegedly produces as much electricity as 25 wind turbines:
These reactors use a consortium of methanogenic (methane-producing) bacteria to degrade waste and energy crops to produce biogas (a mixture of methane and carbon) which is then converted to electricity using a turbine.
The DoI has approved the country's first solar tower:
The solar ‘power tower’ has been proposed for the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County, California by BrightSource Energy, and it will produce up to 370 megawatts of clean energy. This energy would be enough to power between 111,000 to 277,500 American homes, and the project will create over 1,000 jobs.
Inhabitat has more on the geothermal hotspot under West Virginia:

The discovery was made by the Southern Methodist University, who was given a $481,500 grant by Google to look into potential geothermal activity. The discovery is believed to be 78% more than was previously estimated....

In the official discovery report, the university said, “The presence of a large, baseload, carbon neutral and sustainable energy resource in West Virginia could make an important contribution to enhancing US energy security and for decreasing CO2 emissions"....

Currently, West Virginia produces 16,350 MW per annum from coal. If it was to fully utilize its geothermal reserves, it could produce 18,890 MW.

MIT researchers have created a portable desalination system for use in disaster areas:

The system is designed to be cost effective. It is made from standard parts such as PVC pipe and basic electronic components. It can be assembled and operated by local people who do not need advanced technical training. The units can also operate efficiently in a wide range of weather conditions. They have built in computers with sensors that can change certain variables if it gets cloudy. For example, the computer can adjust power going to the pump or the position of the valves to ensure the system will always produce water.

American ranchers are increasingly trying to coexist with wolves, instead of exterminating them:
[D]eterrence projects are slowly gaining favor with ranchers living in wolf country, and they reflect a new, more collaborative way of dealing with Mexican wolves, which the Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced to Arizona and New Mexico in 1998....

About 15 ranchers in Arizona and about a dozen in New Mexico have tried wolf deterrent strategies over the past several years, and many of them -- particularly in Arizona, where grazing is for the most part seasonal instead of year-round -- have seen some benefit.
The rinderpest virus has apparently been eradicated:

Scientists have eradicated a killer virus in the wild, only the second time such a feat has been achieved in human history.

Researchers at the UN said today that rinderpest, a virus that causes devastating cattle plague, has been wiped out, the first time such an announcement has been made since the end of smallpox more than 30 years ago.

John Anderson, the head of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, called the success "the biggest achievement of veterinary history". Rinderpest is the first animal virus to be contained and then eradicated in the wild.

The Obama administration has proposed new regulations that would limit miners' exposure to coal dust:
Federal regulators want to cut the dust exposure limit in half over two years, under rules proposed by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.MSHA also would require mine operators for the first time to monitor and record dust levels in real time; require miners in the dustiest jobs to wear personal dust monitors; change sampling procedures to determine how well mines are complying with dust controls; and expand medical monitoring of miners.
Sixty French towns have returned to using horse-drawn carts for waste collection:

For Jean Baptiste, mayor of medieval Peyrestortes, near Perpignan and one of 60 towns now using horses to collect waste, the benefit above all is practical. "You can't turn a waste collection vehicle around here. We used to block streets to traffic and keep waste in open skips." He sold off a dustbin lorry and acquired two Breton carthorses instead. Asked whether the changes are saving money, he says: "It's too early. But money isn't the only reason. The exhaust smells have gone, the noise has gone, and instead we have the clip-clop of horses' hooves."

In other news: The 600th birthday of Prague's astronomical clock. Soviet magazine cartoons. The recovery of comet 164P/Christensen. LEGO letterpress. And cyanotypes by Anna Atkins.

45cat (via things). Trap rooms. The Hepcats Jive Talk Dictionary. Photos by Jonathan Kenyon. And the fine art of underwater pumpkin carving.

Vintage coffee tins. Photos by Justin Partyka (via wood s lot). Caspian dreams. Photos by Frans Erasmie. And Le Cochon Qui Rit.

And a short film.

(Painting at top: "Trace" by Gregory Thielker, 2008.)

Friday, October 08, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

A right-wing Christian group has decided to stop funding an anti-gay event:

The group’s president, Alan Chambers, told CNN that the event has become too divisive [!!] and confrontational.

"All the recent attention to bullying helped us realize that we need to equip kids to live out biblical tolerance and grace while treating their neighbors as they'd like to be treated, whether they agree with them or not," Chambers told CNN on Wednesday.
That's one way of looking at it, I suppose. But it's not very muscular.

A couple of conservative activists are calling for an end to the death penalty:
From our conservative perspective, there are other reasons we oppose the death penalty. It is an expensive government program with the power to kill people. Conservatives don't trust the government is always capable, competent, or fair with far lighter tasks.

When it comes to life and death, mistakes are made, or perhaps worse, bad decisions are made. States have wrongly convicted people based on false confessions and inaccurate eyewitness identification. In some of these cases, the real perpetrator was identified decades after the crime occurred. Since DNA evidence is not available in the majority of murder cases, other wrongful convictions based on similar types of evidence may never come to light.
Perhaps we could extend this logic to "far lighter tasks" like bombing foreign capitals.

The FTC is working on new regulations to prevent greenwashing.
Among the proposed changes: Marketers shouldn't use labels like "green" or "eco-friendly" because they're too vague; if something's labeled as "biodegradable," then the entire package should "completely break down and return to nature" within a year; and if something's called "non-toxic" it should be non-toxic for humans and for the environment generally.
Public comments are welcome.

Zion National Park has completed the park system's first soundscape plan:
For the first time, soundscape measurement metrics that have been in development at the NPS Natural Sounds Program office in Ft. Collins, Colorado, will be driving forces in ongoing Park management and assessment procedures. One of these metrics is the “noise-free interval,” or average time between the audible presence of human sound. According to Frank Turina, an NPS Natural Sound Program planner, “Now it’s two to three minutes before you hear a human-caused sound, usually involving an overflight, and we want to expand that to a seven-minute period. If we meet that goal we will reassess the situation to see if a longer interval is warranted.”

While some environmental groups had pushed for the Park Service to set a higher standard for back country visitors, this first step, if successful, would effectively reduce sound intrusions to less than half their current level.
Chile has created a large marine preserve around a small island:

Today, the Chilean government announced the creation of a large marine reserve around tiny and remote Sala y Gómez island in the Pacific ocean. The Waitt Foundation, Oceana, and National Geographic mounted a March 2010 expedition to document marine diversity in waters surrounding the island. The government's move represents a more than 100-fold increase in the expanse of Chile's marine protected areas....

"Sala y Gómez is one of the last undisturbed and relatively pristine places left in the ocean," said Dr. Enric Sala, a marine ecologist and National Geographic Ocean Fellow. "The island and its surrounding ocean ecosystem, which includes deep seamounts with unique marine life, have global value. These seamounts are very vulnerable to fishing activities, and this inspirational step marks Chile's potential as a global leader in ocean conservation."

The DoE has agreed to a cleanup deadline at the horrendous Hanford site:
The decree gives DOE more time for important and difficult environmental cleanup work at Hanford but also requires DOE to answer directly to the court if it misses new deadlines. The consent decree represents the beginning of a new level of accountability for the federal government for Hanford nuclear reservation cleanup over the next 40 years, said Rob McKenna, Washington state attorney general, in a statement.
A court has overturned Ohio's ban on labels that identify rBGH-free products:
Earlier this week, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the state of Ohio's ban on labels that identify milk as rBST- or rBGH-free, meaning produced without the use of artificial bovine growth hormone. Consumer and organic food groups were jubilant at the Ohio news, which may have far-reaching repercussions not only for all milk, but for genetically engineered foods.
The White House will once again have solar panels:

Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the plans Tuesday in Washington at a conference of local, state, academic and nonprofit leaders aimed at identifying how the federal government can improve its environmental performance.

Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush both tapped the sun during their days in the White House. Carter in the late 1970s spent $30,000 on a solar water-heating system for West Wing offices. Bush's solar systems powered a maintenance building and some of the mansion, and heated water for the pool.

This means that Obama is the new Carter, which makes him wrong, just like Carter was when he installed solar panels, which had to be removed and incinerated at a cost of eleventy-point-three billion dollars by a highly trained cadre of Reagan-era freedom fighters, each of whom received 12 medals for risking life and limb to restore America's dignity on the world stage.

Some experts believe that Obama's panels are even worse than Carter's, because they remind The American People of turf-marking vandalism like graffiti and miscegenation. Carter's panels had a certain pathos, and were more like a weird-looking sweater on some sad, disoriented old man, according to Washington insiders.

And it only gets worse:
Yesterday, the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar approved the nation's first-ever large-scale solar energy plants to be built on public lands. Both plants, located in California, are first in a series of clean energy projects under final review by the Department of Interior (DOI) that are to be built on public lands. The California projects will have access to 6,800 acres that could produce up to 754 megawatts, enough to power up to 566,000 typical homes.
America Held Hostage: Day One!

West Virginia seems to have a lot of geothermal power:

Researchers have uncovered the largest geothermal hot spot in the eastern United States. According to a unique collaboration between Google and academic geologists, West Virginia sits atop several hot patches of Earth, some as warm as 200˚C and as shallow as 5 kilometers. If engineers are able to tap the heat, the state could become a producer of green energy for the region.

Obama has repealed language in the Dodd-Frank bill that allowed the SEC to hide its records:

This broad and unnecessary language would have given the SEC the blanket authority to block the release of records in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and to withhold records in response to subpoenas filed by third-party civil litigants, even if such records were needed to expose corruption or incompetence at the agency.

The EPA is blocking 11 coal-mining permits in Kentucky:

It’s the first time in about 20 years the federal agency has made such a move in Kentucky, but it is similar to actions that it’s made in other Appalachian states, where regulators are complaining that the EPA is overstepping its bounds.

In objection letters about the permits from its Atlanta office to the Kentucky Division of Water, the EPA cited the state’s own assessment of poor water quality in the regions where the permits are sought. And it said state regulators, in moving to approve the permits, failed to conduct analyses to determine whether proposed discharges from new surface mining would likely violate state water quality standards.
During a 60-day expedition to Papua New Guinea, researchers found 200 new species:
Half of the new species were spiders, but the team also found two new mammals, nine new plants, two dozen frogs, and multitude of insects. Most surprising was the discovery of at least two species so unique that they are likely to be assigned their own genus.

Photo © Piotr Naskrecki/iLCP.

Researchers also found new coral reefs in the Mediterraean:
This area apparently stretches over a few kilometers, 700 meters under the surface and some 30-40 km off the coast of Tel Aviv. According to the researchers, this southeastern region of the Mediterranean has only sparse sea life and therefore the discovery is in fact parallel to discovering an oasis in the middle of an arid expanse. "We did not expect, know, or even imagine that we would come across these reefs and certainly not such large ones. It's like finding a flourishing oasis in the middle of the desert," said Dr. Yizhaq Makovsky, who directed the University of Haifa control center for the project.
Bank of America has halted foreclosure sales nationally:

Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America Corp., the nation's largest bank, said Friday it would stop sales of foreclosed homes in all 50 states as it reviews documents used to process foreclosures....

A document obtained last week by the Associated Press showed a Bank of America official acknowledging in a legal proceeding that she signed thousands of foreclosure documents a month and typically didn't read them. The official, Renee Hertzler, said in a February deposition that she signed 7,000 to 8,000 foreclosure documents a month.
Scotland may run on 100-percent renewable energy by 2025:
While many countries are complaining about the Copenhagen requirements, other countries are striving to go above and beyond the call of duty. Last week Northern Ireland stated that they were hoping to have 40 percent of the country running off renewable energy. This week, new First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond went even further, stating that the country could be running off of 100 percent renewable energy by 2025.

This ambitious goal happened a week after the SNP administration upped Scotland's renewable energy goal from 50 percent to 80 percent by 2020
(h/t: Karin.)

All too human landscapes in southwest Florida. Roadtown. An abandoned line of the Moscow Metro. Ptolemy's map of Germania, deciphered (via Cheryl). Newly discovered footage of the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco. And some striking images from North Korea:

The Urban Speaker. Some items relating to Heathrow Airport (via things). An exoskeleton for wheelchair users. The Adrspach-Teplice Rocks. Iceland digitized. Top discoveries by the Census of Marine Life. Typographic maps. And Mexico's Cave of Crystals:

Right-Wing Radio Duck. Apropos of which, right-wing icons and their neverending struggle against alien sociologists (via Peacay). "It's decorative gourd season, motherfuckers!" Work Hard and Starve. An audio letter from Ethiopia. And Io in true color:

Here's a movie, too.

(Image at top: "Desert Landscape" by Sidney Nolan.)

Friday, October 01, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

Telemedicine has improved women's access to RU-486:

[A] pioneering telemedicine program in Iowa has provided the pill to about 1,900 women - with a doctor able to consult with a faraway patient in a video teleconference, then unlock a container by remote control to release the pill. To the alarm of anti-abortion activists, abortion providers in other states are pondering whether similar programs would enable them to serve more women, especially in rural areas.
The United States has apologized for intentionally infecting Guatemalans with venereal disease.

U.S. government medical researchers intentionally infected hundreds of people in Guatemala, including institutionalized mental patients, with gonorrhea and syphilis without their knowledge or permission more than 60 years ago.

Many of those infected were encouraged to pass the infection onto others as part of the study.

About one third of those who were infected never got adequate treatment.

On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius offered extensive apologies for actions taken by the U.S. Public Health Service.

Despite this minor episode of overzealousness, we are and remain Teh Greatest Country Ever, and don't you forget it. (Or else.)

The Denver Women's Correctional Facility has ended a grotesque, degrading strip-search procedure:
Officials at the Denver Women's Correctional Facility (DWCF) today implemented a new strip search policy that no longer allows correctional officers to engage in degrading body cavity searches in which prisoners had been forced to open their labia and, according to some reports, even to pull back the skin of their clitorises.
Connecticut has halted all foreclosures:

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal on Friday ordered a moratorium on all foreclosures by all banks for 60 days--the most radical action taken by a state on issue of document irregularities.

California also expanded the moratorium on foreclosures it announced last week on Ally Financial foreclosures to include those by J.P. Morgan Chase.

(h/t: Atrios.)

A rapid test for drug-contaminated meat could help to save the Indian vulture:
A pilot study in collaboration with the RSPB, the Bombay Natural History Society and the Wildlife Institute of India proved the suitability of the immune test for detecting Diclofenac in animal tissue. The procedure is currently undergoing extensive testing at an Indian vulture-breeding center. However, this method is also suitable for many other fields of application, as shown for instance in studies on Diclofenac contamination of wastewater in Bavaria and Austria. In the meantime the antibody is also being used in clinical environments to study allergic reactions to the drug.
Federal courts have rejected yet another Bush-era environmental anti-regulation:
Two courts this week shot down a 2007 policy issued by the Bush administration that argued that protections for species under the Endangered Species Act could be limited to portions of their range, and that in deciding whether species are endangered, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could ignore loss of historic range. The decisions apply to the Gunnison’s and Utah prairie dogs and follow another recent decision invalidating removal of protection for northern Rocky Mountains gray wolves based on similar reasoning.

“With these decisions, the Bush-era policy is a dead letter and ought to be immediately rescinded by the Obama administration,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “By severely undermining protections for endangered species like the gray wolf, Gunnison’s prairie dog and others, this policy is clearly contrary to the letter and spirit of the Endangered Species Act ”

Researchers have found a previously unknown population of a rare bird:
The Baudo oropendola (Psarocolius cassini) has gone from less than a dozen known individuals to nearly a hundred due to the discovery of two new colonies in northwestern Colombia by local conservation group, Fundación ProAves. However, the new colonies are located in an unprotected area currently being impacted by deforestation.

George Fenwick, president of American Bird Conservancy which focuses on bird conservation, said in a press release that his organization "is thrilled to have helped fund the research expedition that led to this stunning discovery of these two new colonies of this rare bird. Now we need to work with ProAves to conserve and protect them."

Photo: Fundación ProAves
In Chicago, families are occupying a building and demanding that it be turned into a library:

In a largely Hispanic neighbourhood on the lower west side of Chicago, parents and their kids have been occupying a field house, demanding that it be turned into a library instead of being torn down and the land used for a soccer field. This is a neighbourhood where 40% of the students live below the poverty line....

It would cost about a million dollars to fix up La Casita. What does a million dollars get the American military in Afghanistan–a paperclip? Surely President Obama, formerly a resident of Chicago, could turn his sights to these brave and struggling families yearning for books.

The US has strengthened offshore drilling regulations:
Today, the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, announced newly tightened regulations for offshore drilling. The rules are effective immediately, but the moratorium on offshore drilling imposed by the Obama administration at the beginning of the spill remains in place. They're aimed at clamping down on some of the key areas that allowed the disaster on the Deepwater Horizon to take place -- stronger oversight for worker training, emergency response, and blowout protectors, to name a few.
The White House has announced its plan to cut GHG emissions by 28 percent.

A large step forward for federal sustainability came this month as the White House released its Strategic Sustainability Performance Plans for nearly every Federal agency. This is the first time that all the agencies have submitted plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

The Department of the Interior has a new policy on scientific integrity:

The order establishes codes of conduct for employees engaged in scientific activities or who use science to make decisions, and it requires all bureaus and offices to document and make public scientific or technological findings or conclusions used in decision-making....

Francesca Grifo, senior scientist and director of the scientific integrity program at the Union of Concerned Scientists applauded the new policy. "The principles outlined in the order, if fully implemented, would go a long way toward stopping the manipulation and distortion of science, on everything from underwater oil drilling to wildlife protection," she said in a statement.

Two more cities have rejected the ICE's S-Comm program:

A broad coalition of civil rights groups applaud Santa Clara and Arlington for joining San Francisco in requesting to opt out of ICE’s dangerous fingerprinting program. S-Comm is a program that automatically shares with ICE any fingerprints taken by local law enforcement right after individuals are arrested, even if the criminal charges are eventually dismissed or the result of an unlawful arrest. The program has sparked strong opposition from civil rights organizations, law enforcement, and city officials from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco, over concerns it is being forced on hundreds of counties without any mechanism for oversight or accountability.

A new study details the steep decline in breast cancer deaths:

Sixty years ago, a woman had just a 25 percent chance of living 10 years if she got a breast cancer diagnosis. Now the survival rate is more than 75 percent, U.S. doctors reported on Wednesday.

The study of women treated at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center demonstrates how improvements in treatment and screening have transformed the disease from a virtual death sentence, experts said.

Where a death ray is when you need it. Beach frolics, 1921. The sound of Akkadian. The Paleogene California River. Images from Manzhouli, China. A close-up view of the Campanula. And photos by Alain Delorme.

Gliese 581g or bust. Insect photography. The Yale Papyrus Collection. An interview with Giorgio Agamben (via wood s lot). Isolated building studies. And photos by Sebastian Schutyser.

Wara Wara. A rephotographic survey of East Germany. Street views of Antarctica. Venus' south polar vortex. And Mexican walls.

Last, a short film (via The Bioscope).

(Photo at top by A. Ellis and S. Johnson, from "Floral Mimicry Enhances Pollen Export: the Evolution of Pollination by Sexual Deceit Outside of the Orchidaceae," American Naturalist, November 2010. Via Surprising Science.)