Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

Medicare has finalized new rules that affirm the right of hospital patients to choose their visitors:

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today issued new rules for Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals that protect patients’ right to choose their own visitors during a hospital stay, including a visitor who is a same-sex domestic partner.

“Basic human rights—such as your ability to choose your own support system in a time of need—must not be checked at the door of America’s hospitals,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Today’s rules help give ‘full and equal’ rights to all of us to choose whom we want by our bedside when we are sick, and override any objection by a hospital or staffer who may disagree with us for any non-clinical reason.”

Arizona's racial profiling law may have cost it $45 million in convention business:
Spinoff effects bring economic losses into the hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the study, commissioned by the Center for American Progress, a liberal policy group in Washington. Potential future effects of fewer convention bookings could mean Arizona will receive an overall hit of more than $750 million, the study said.
The British Beekeepers' Association will stop endorsing the use of pesticides that kill bees:

The British Beekeepers' Association has today announced plans to end its controversial practice of endorsing pesticides in return for cash from leading chemical manufacturers.

The endorsement of four products as "bee-friendly" in return for £17,500 a year caused outrage among many beekeepers because one of the companies, Bayer Crop Science, makes pesticides that are widely implicated in the deaths of honeybees worldwide.

In related news, the EPA will ban endosulfan:

Endosulfan is an antiquated, dangerous insecticide used on tomatoes, cotton and other crops that is a pervasive pollutant of waterways and a threat to numerous endangered species. It has also has been linked to endocrine disruption, reproductive disorders and other severe effects on human health. Conservationists, public health officials, farmworkers and indigenous groups have been calling for a U.S. ban on this DDT-era pesticide for years. Endosulfan is already banned in the European Union, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and other countries.

In news related to the foregoing related news:
Research shows that the benefits of environmental regulations consistently exceed costs, in part because they end up costing far less than both industry and the EPA predict.

When EPA promulgates regulations, industry often expresses concern that the regulations will cause extreme economic hardship. Now this argument is being made regarding EPA regulation of carbon pollution using existing legal authorities like the Clean Air Act. In fact, there is extensive literature showing that the costs of environmental regulations are more than offset by a broad range of economic, public health and jobs-related benefits. Additionally, initial cost estimates are consistently found to be exaggerated.

Economists and researchers who have compared actual costs with initial projections report that regulations generally end up costing far less than the dire predictions from industry and even, as an RFF study shows, below cost projections by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Xerox claims to have saved $10.2 million by asking its employees for green business ideas:

One way to dismiss sustainability and any smidgen of corporate social responsibility is to shout the antiquated argument that we only have a choice between the economy and the environment. Xerox has shown that is not the case. Last year the company announced it was working on carbon neutrality; to that end, in the push to make the company more "green," Xerox encouraged its employees to share ideas on how the organization could become more efficient....

The results from employees’ rethinking: Xerox has saved US$10.2 million this year while it eliminated 2.6 million pounds of waste.
In California, new regulations require reformulation of household cleaning products:

About 2,000 household cleaning products will be reformulated to reduce smog-forming compounds under a new regulation adopted Thursday in California.

The rule will trigger a new, mandatory wave of “green” products, including window cleaners, general purpose cleaning sprays, degreasers, oven cleaners, metal polishes, furniture sprays, heavy-duty hand soaps and spot removers.

Household cleaners, which contain highly reactive solvents known as VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are a substantial source of smog. The new standards will reduce emissions by nearly 7 tons per day, which is the equivalent of removing half a million cars from California’s roads.

The Pentagon will stop shielding certain consultants from disclosure laws:
The Pentagon has dropped its attempt to shield some consultants from public scrutiny and will require all retired admirals and generals it hires under its "senior mentors" program to disclose their employers, earnings and stocks they own.

Under pressure from Congress, the Pentagon had required that only consultants making more than $119,553 per year disclose their finances.

But in a memo Friday, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn said the disclosure rules will apply to all mentors.

Indonesia has created a large shark sanctuary:
A shark sanctuary has been declared around the Raja Ampat islands in Indonesia. Larger than Denmark, the new sanctuary covers 17,760 square miles (46,000 square kilometers) of one of the world's richest marine biodiverse region, the Coral Triangle. Protections not only cover sharks, but dugongs, marine turtles, mobulas, and manta rays as well. In addition, reef bombing and fishing for the aquarium trade are banned.
Researchers have found several new frogs in Colombia:
The newly discovered species include a cryptic beaked toad (Rhinella species), which resembles dead leaves and whose offspring skip the tadpole stage to develop directly into toadlets; an unknown toad with bright red eyes; and a new rocket frog (Silverstoneia species), a type of poison dart frog.
Photo: Robin Moore/iLCP

South Africa is deploying its military to stop rhino poaching:

Rhino poaching keeps taking on such alarming proportions in South Africa that the country's defence force has now been called in to help fight the ruthless killers who are mostly using assault weapons and often other sophisticated equipment to carry out their crime.

The request has come from South African National Parks (SANParks), which has been engaged in its own growing battle to stem rhino poaching in Kruger National Park, the country's flagship reserve that is home to about 10,000 white rhinos and 350 black rhinos.

Researchers in Hong Kong have created a solar air conditioning system for cars:

The system consists of a roof-mounted photovoltaic panel that collects solar energy and stories it in a custom battery supported by an optimized control system. The power collected will then be able to support a stand-alone electric air-conditioner, which can be switched on when the vehicle engine is not running. If the weather is dark, then stored energy can be used to power the system.

Currently the system can only produce enough power to sustain a standalone electric air conditioner, but the researchers are currently working on other projects that can benefit from the system, such as implementing them on the streets of Hong Kong to power shop A/C units and refrigerators.

Cheryl alerts me to these heartening Nunn-Lugar statistics:
The Nunn-Lugar scorecard now totals 7,599 strategic nuclear warheads deactivated, 791 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) destroyed, 498 ICBM silos eliminated, 180 ICBM mobile launchers destroyed, 651 submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) eliminated, 492 SLBM launchers eliminated, 32 nuclear submarines capable of launching ballistic missiles destroyed, 155 bomber eliminated, 906 nuclear air-to-surface missiles (ASMs) destroyed, 194 nuclear test tunnels eliminated, 493 nuclear weapons transport train shipments secured, upgraded security at 24 nuclear weapons storage sites, built and equipped 20 biological monitoring stations, and neutralized 1569.5 metric tons of Russian & Albanian chemical weapons agent. Perhaps most importantly, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus are nuclear weapons free as a result of cooperative efforts under the Nunn-Lugar program. Those countries were the third, fourth and eighth largest nuclear weapons powers in the world.
Apropos of which:
Enough plutonium and uranium to make 775 nuclear weapons has been removed from the BN-350 fast reactor in Kazakhstan, built to breed plutonium for the Soviet Union's nuclear weapons program, and placed in a secure storage facility to keep terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The United States and Kazakhstan worked together to achieve the transfer, which was announced today by U.S. and Kazakh officials at the storage facility in Eastern Kazakhstan.

"Working closely together, we secured, packaged and removed the spent fuel that contains 10 metric tons of highly enriched uranium and three metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium, enough material for 775 nuclear weapons," said Anne Harrington, deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation with the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, NNSA.

Kentucky has canceled plans to build a coal plant:
Thanks to a powerful and growing New Power grassroots movement, a broad alliance of Kentucky activists sent an electrifying message across the nation today: A just transition to a clean energy future, even in the heartland of coal country Kentucky, is possible.

Recognizing the spiraling costs of coal-fired plant construction and more practical energy efficiency and renewable energy options, the East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC) has agreed to halt its once fervent plans to construct two coal-burning power plants in Clark County.

I heartily endorse this event and/or product:

House Democrats are exploiting an embarrassing moment for the GOP earlier this week to highlight the hypocrisy of Republicans' relentless opposition to health care reform.

Four members -- Joe Crowley (NY), Linda Sanchez (CA), Donna Edwards (MD), and Tim Ryan (OH) -- are rounding up signatures for a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Speaker-to-be John Boehner, encouraging them to press their members to refuse their federal health benefits based on the same principles underlying their opposition to health care reform.

Sixteen studies from vegetable locomotion (1975). Eight films by Alexander Kluge. Seven hours of a train ride through Norway. Three abandoned churches. And an unspecified number of photos by Clarence John Laughlin:

Celestial mechanics. Vintage coupons. Calling the time lady. "The picturesque dress of the Newhaven fish-women will not escape the notice of a stranger." Graphic Presentation (via things). Neverends. Molecular animation (via Peacay). Photos by Abelardo Morell. Photos by David Vestal (via wood s lot). And home from above:

Redrawing our borders. Related: John Wesley Powell's watershed maps. The bright lights of the big city. The unified lunar control network. And strange images from the Nottingham Caves Survey:

Here's a cartoon, too:

(Image at top: "The small object featured in this exhibition is the oldest surviving Anglo-American star map. It was made in 1780 by Simeon De Witt, a surveyor for George Washington and the Continental army. The map shows the stars visible from De Witt’s post in New Jersey. Drawing such a map, as De Witt himself later said, fostered an appreciation of 'the ever shifting scenery of the skies and all the gorgeous drapery of heaven.'")

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Hope Blogging

A North Carolina jury has found the anti-choice radical Flip Benham guilty of stalking doctors:

The director of a conservative Christian group was found guilty Monday of stalking N.C. doctors who perform abortions.

Rev. Flip Benham was sentenced in Mecklenburg court to two years probation and plans to appeal the decision, WSOC-TV reported. Benham, director of Operation Save America, which opposes abortion, homosexuality and Islamic violence, was accused of posting Wild West-style "Wanted" posters with the doctors' names and home addresses.

According to a recent study, lesbian households have an enviably low child-abuse rate:

The U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS) just released its results on its 24-year long study on families with lesbian parents, finding that not one of the 78 adolescents in the study had reported being sexually or physically abused by their parents. This compares to 26% of American adolescents overall who report parent or caregiver physical abuse. 8.3% report sexual abuse.

Additionally, only 2.8% of the adolescents in the study identified themselves as gay. Apparently the majority of them didn’t catch their parents’ gayness.

Caterpillar has suspended sales of D9 bulldozers to Israel:
The Israeli press is reporting that Caterpillar is withholding the delivery of tens of D9 bulldozers—valued at $50 million—to the Israeli military. These are weaponized bulldozers that are used to illegally destroy homes and orchards of Palestinian families.
(h/t: Karin)

A federal judge has ruled against warrantless cellphone tracking:
The court reached this conclusion both because cell tracking reveals information about constitutionally protected spaces such as the home, and because the prolonged nature of such surveillance is very invasive. The court likened the records sought by the government to “a continuous reality TV show, exposing two months’ worth of a person’s movements, activities, and associations in relentless detail.”
San Francisco has formally enacted the country's first open data law:
One year ago, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order directing the city’s departments to make their data public. Yesterday, the city’s board of supervisors turned that order into law. As far as we could establish, this is the first time any city in the U.S. has implemented an open data law....

In the year since Newsom opened the data treasure troves, 200 sets of data have been released, and at least 50 apps have been built using them. Among the apps: EcoFinder, which helps people find recycling locations for all sorts of odds and ends; SpotCrime, which plots crime incidents and sends alerts to residents; and, possibly the favorite of the city's transportation-beleaguered residents, Routesy, which lets people plan tips on public transportation and provides real-time information about when the next bus or train is coming.

A new study suggests that organic strawberry farms produce better crops than conventional farms:
Strawberries from the conventional and organic farms had similar levels of minerals such as potassium, phosphorous and calcium. However, organically grown berries had higher levels of antioxidants and polyphenols, nutrients linked to preventing cancer. They also had higher dry weight, or “more berry in the berry,” said Reganold.
Arizona Public Service Co. may shut down part of the Four Corners power plant:

The Environmental Protection Agency last month unveiled a proposal for environmental upgrades at the plant to improve air quality in the region, and APS officials estimated they would cost about $1 billion.

Rather than pay for all that work at the five-generator power plant, APS proposes closing the first three generators, which it owns, and buying Southern California Edison out of its share of units 4 and 5, which don't need as much investment to meet EPA standards.

PNC Bank will stop funding mountaintop removal mining:
“This move makes PNC bank number seven to issue a position on MTR,” the Rainforest Action Network’s Amanda Starbuck writes, “following in the footsteps of Bank of America, Citi, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Credit Suisse.” PNC’s decision leaves UBS and GE Capital the only major banks that support mountaintop removal.
Italy is launching the world's first solar motorway:
Road testing is due in November, while on 1st January 2011 the Catania-Siracusa motorway will open to the public. By then, 100 percent of its electricity needs will be met by the PV panels installed along the road: 80 thousand of them. Lights, tunnel fans, road signs, emergency telephones, all the services and street furniture installed on the A18 will be run with solar power: distributed over a surface of 20 hectares, the photovoltaic array was obtained through the construction of 3 artificial tunnels on a 100m wide, 2.8km long stretch of road, a project with an overall cost of €60 million. Annual solar electricity production is estimated at about 12 million kWh, which will save — constructors claim — the equivalent of around 31 thousand tons of oil and 10 thousand tons worth of CO2 emissions every year.
An interesting new lightbulb will allegedly be available in 2011:
The 10,000-hour, mercury-free ESL bulb is purportedly just as energy-efficient as both LEDs and CFLs — and it’s dimmable. Vu1 claims that its bulb can disposed of without worrying about toxic elements, and it produces 50% less heat than incandescents to boot.
Doctors have restored a man's vision with an electronic chip:
A man left blind by a devastating eye disease has been able to read letters, tell the time and identify a cup and saucer on a table after surgeons fitted him with an electronic chip to restore his vision.
(h/t: Karin again)

A group of scientists has launched a massive effort to catalog and preserve old scientific data:
Old records have more than proved their worth by now. Data from ships’ logbooks, for example, have been used to study the history of whaling, climate change and the planet’s magnetic field. Zooniverse—which in the past has harnessed the power of bored people with computers to search through pictures of the sky for supernovae and cosmic mergers—has unleashed their horde of citizen scientists on record books from Royal Navy vessels from World War I to gather data and improve a database of weather extremes.
Coffee can archaeology. Map art by Fernando Vicente. Photos by Agustín Casasola (via wood s lot).

Colonial Film (via The Bioscope). Mollusca. Phonebook carvings. The Oya stone museum. And a visit to a nuclear reactor.

And selected short subjects.

(Photo at top: "Last week, NASA's robotic EPOXI spacecraft whizzed past Comet 103P/Hartley, also known as Comet Hartley 2, and recorded images and data that are both strange and fascinating. EPOXI was near its closest approach -- about 700 kilometers away -- when it snapped the above picture")