Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Hope Blogging

I'm insanely busy (or busily insane) this week, so I'll post what I can in the time allotted to me, and you — I'm hoping — will post any stories I missed in comments. Info on activism would be particularly welcome (e.g., a list of other rich and horrible people we could pretend to be in order to have a friendly chinwag with Scott Walker).

Alright, then. As you undoubtedly know, Teh Kenyan Usurper has taken an important step toward imposing sharia on these United States:

For the first time, the president of the United States and the chief law enforcement officer of the United States have said with one clear voice that a law which denies married same-sex couples equal protection under the Constitution is not only wrong but also unconstitutional.
Can federally mandated Tayammum be far behind?

Blog of Rights has more:
The government's shift of position is also amazing because of what it means not just for DOMA, but for LGBT rights more broadly. If the courts ultimately agree that heightened scrutiny applies whenever the government treats gay people badly, then it's not just DOMA that becomes hard to defend. So do state adoption and foster parenting laws that exclude gay people. And states' refusals to provide health care benefits or pension protections to the domestic partners of state workers. And public schools' decisions to ignore anti-LGBT harassment or exclude same-sex couples from the prom. And government rules like the military separation pay disparity that we've challenged in court. Heightened scrutiny will affect every nook and cranny of LGBT rights law.
Nine cave-dwelling invertebrates (and I don't mean these ones) have gained ESA protections:
In response to a lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity, Citizen’s Alliance for Smart Expansion and Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed to designate nearly 7,000 acres as critical habitat for nine rare, cave-dwelling invertebrates in Bexar County, Texas. Today’s announcement reverses a previous Bush-era critical habitat designation of about 1,000 acres, which left out a number of places where the species live and failed to protect sufficient area around the caves.

“This nearly sevenfold increase in protected habitat gives these nine unique Texas species a chance at survival,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director for the Center. “With just a modest restriction on urban sprawl, these species that occur nowhere else on Earth may be saved.”

Yet another inquiry into the stolen CRU e-mails has cleared climate scientists of any wrongdoing:

U.S. officials on Thursday cleared scientists of charges that they manipulated data about climate change in e-mails that were stolen from a British university in 2009, triggering a climate scandal.

The Department of Commerce's Inspector General conducted the independent review of e-mails taken from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England, at the request of Republican Senator James Inhofe, a climate change skeptic.

Being as Republicans are passionately opposed to wasting taxpayer dollars, this will undoubtedly be the final investigation into this non-issue.

Apparently, it's still possible for hard-right rhetoric to go too far:

An Indiana Deputy Attorney General has lost his job after saying in a private Twitter that “live ammunition” should be used on union protestors in Wisconsin.

Deputy A.G. Jeffrey Cox “is no longer” with the Attorney General’s office, said a terse release. “Civility and courtesy toward all members of the public are very important to the Indiana Attorney General’s office,” it added.

Researchers in one of Madasgascar's forests have identified a new bird, whose Latin name I may well decide to bestow upon my firstborn:
The rich and unique biodiversity of Madagascar has a new member: a forest dwelling bird in the rail family, dubbed Mentocrex beankaensis. In 2009 US and Malaygasy scientists conducted a survey in Madagascar's dry Beanka Forest. They discovered several new species, of which the new rail is the first to be described.
The National Park Service has taken steps to restore the natural soundscape of California's Muir Woods:

A decade after the agency resolved to restore natural sounds to this park in a metropolitan area of seven million people, managers at Muir Woods, in Marin Country just north of San Francisco, have made big strides in vanquishing intrusive noise. Now the background sounds are dominated by the burbling rush of Redwood Creek, the soft sibilant breeze that stirs the redwood branches, the croak of a crow.

Maryland has suspended its grotesque policy of demanding Facebook passwords from job applicants:
The ACLU of Maryland sent a letter to Public Safety Secretary Gary Maynard informing him that demanding Officer Collins' Facebook password was a gross breach of privacy and raised significant legal concerns under the Federal Stored Communications Act and Maryland state law. We're pleased to report that yesterday, Secretary Maynard wrote back and informed us that he has suspended the social media password requirement for 45 days pending a review of this policy!
Senate Democrats want to put the Social Security trust fund in a lockbox and insulate it from a broader budget-cutting package designed to reduce the national deficit....
Make of this story what you will:

Transphorm chief executive Umesh Mishra, a professor of electric and computer engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara, claims the startup's gallium nitride technology eliminates 90 percent of the energy waste when current is converted from AC to DC and back. Given that 10 percent of the United States' electricity production is lost when converted to different currents, Transphorm's technology could save terawatts of energy if widely adopted.

"Imagine taking the West Coast off the grid," he said, noting that Transphorm could save as much electricity as California and the Pacific Northwest consume.

While we await the long-heralded coming of our techno-Messiah, North Carolina's Carteret Community College has launched a fleet of bicycles:

The college’s Sustainability Committee unveiled its Green Bikes ride sharing program this month with a simple invitation for students and staff: See a green bike, ride a green bike.

The green-painted bicycles are now out and parked in bike racks or leaning against buildings, waiting for the next rider. If a green bike is sitting outside one of the buildings, it’s there for the next person heading to another class or switching buildings.

Tomorrow, cities all over the country will hold rallies in support of workers' rights. You can find a local rally, and sign up to attend it, by clicking here.

Apropos of which, a comment from Doug Hill:

I would rather be governed by the first five hundred people in the telephone book than by the CEOs of the Fortune 500.

Lest we forget: Street scenes, and a taxonomy of city blocks. The Pre-Cinema Project (via The Bioscope). Related: Giovanni Fontana's Castellum Umbrarum. A jape, or jest. Justice and public space. A visit to subterranean Helsinki. A visit to Scotia. The Daily Exposure. And who among us does not love microscopic snapshots? Or photos of wildlife?

Here's a song for you, as well:

(Photo at top by Todd McLellan, via things.)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Hope Blogging

Republican state Senator Cale Case is speaking out against an anti-gay anti-human bill passed by the Wyoming House:

“Gays and lesbians live and work among us. They’re also soldiers in the military,” he said. “They’ve been here and talked about their service in Iraq and … now you’re going to deny them the benefits (of marriage of civil unions)....

“When you go home, you’re going to look people in the eye,” he said. “You’re going to tell them you made them into second-class citizens today if you pass this. You can’t do that. We’re the Equality State.”
South Dakota legislators have shelved a bill that would have made it legal to kill abortion providers:

The House speaker, Val Rausch, said that the legislation had been shelved, pending a decision on whether to allow a vote, amend the language or drop it entirely. A spokesman for Gov. Dennis Daugaard said, “Clearly the bill as it’s currently written is a very bad idea.”

The Obama administration seems to have repealed elements of the Bush-era "conscience clause" for healthcare providers:

Today, the Obama Administration issued a final ruling on and guidance for a "provider conscience clause," first proposed by the Bush Administration in July 2008 and put into effect in the waning hours of the administration's existence....

As of this writing, we are still studying the new ruling published today by the Department of Health and Human Services. However, two things are clear. One is that the administration in no uncertain terms clarifies that providers may not refuse to treat persons even if "lifestyle," "sexual orientation," or other considerations offend their consciences.

The second is that the administration makes explicit that contraception can not be equated with abortion and therefore providing contraception is not covered by conscience provisions.

Hawaii has approved civil unions:
Hawaii lawmakers gave final approval to civil unions Wednesday and sent the legislation to Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who plans to sign it into law within 10 business days. Civil unions would begin Jan. 1, 2012, making the state the seventh in the nation to grant virtually the same rights of marriage to same-sex couples without authorizing marriage itself.
Popular outcry has forced the UK to withdraw a plan to sell off its forests:
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman was contrite when she appeared in front of members of the British parliament.

"I'm sorry. We got this one wrong, but we have listened to people's concerns," she said, as reported by the Guardian adding that, "if there is one clear message from this experience, it is that people cherish their forests and woodlands and the benefits they bring. My first priority throughout this period of debate has been securing a sustainable future for our woodlands and forests...."

David Babbs, head of 38 Degrees, the campaign group that collected half a million signatures, told Reuters: "Some say signing petitions and emailing (Members of Parliament) never changes anything. But it did this time. This is what people-power looks like, and over half a million of us are feeling very proud."
Plans to build a coal plant on one of Borneo's beaches have been scrapped:
Environmentalists, scientists, and locals have won the battle against a controversial coal plant in the Malaysian state of Sabah in northern Borneo. The State and Federal government announced today that they would "pursue other alternative sources of energy, namely gas, to meet Sabah's power supply needs." Proposed for an undeveloped beach on the north-eastern coast of Borneo, the coal plant, according to critics, would have threatened the Coral Triangle, one of the world's most biodiverse marine ecosystems, and Tabin Wildlife Reserve, home to Critically Endangered Sumatran rhinos and Bornean orangutans.

HUD has reaffirmed the illegality of discrimination against domestic violence survivors:
Last Wednesday, HUD issued a memo to its regional offices describing how discrimination against domestic violence survivors can violate the federal Fair Housing Act...

The HUD guidance is another step forward in ending housing discrimination against domestic violence survivors because it enables survivors to vindicate their rights. And while the guidance does not specifically address the fair housing rights of victims of dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault, the same analysis should apply to protect the housing of all survivors of gender-based violence.
The IRS will allow nursing mothers to deduct the cost of breastfeeding supplies.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has long advocated for this change to the tax code. “For years, the AAP has been urging the IRS to recognize that breast milk is not just the best and most natural food for infants; it confers well-documented health benefits on both baby and mother that cannot be obtained any other way,” AAP said in a statement. “The IRS has finally acknowledged this medical fact, and we applaud them for changing their regulations accordingly.”
(Be it known: Like everything else this administration does, this modest tax cut is an intolerable instance of tyrannical Islamosocialist homofascism.)

The White House has issued a draft plan to protect the Grand Canyon from uranium mining:

On July 21, 2009, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued a two-year “segregation order” banning new mining claims across 1 million acres of public lands around the world-famous national park. Today’s draft environmental impact statement proposes a 20-year “mineral withdrawal” across the same 1 million-acre area, banning new claims and blocking new mining on existing, unproven claims.

“This is an important step in protecting the people, the water and the wildlife of the greater Grand Canyon area,” said Sandy Bahr, chapter director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “Now all those who support protecting Grand Canyon — tribal leaders, local communities, water districts, conservationists — must work to make sure the final decision for these lands is as protective as possible.”

The National Forest Service is finally undertaking minimal road planning:

The guidance memo directs all national forests to identify, through a science-based analysis, an ecologically and fiscally sustainable minimum road system by 2015....

For those interested in large landscape connectivity for wildlife, this initiative presents an opportunity to reduce road densities as well as protect and restore linkages and core habitat. For those interested in clean water and fisheries, it is an opportunity to improve water quality and watershed health. And for those interested in fiscal responsibility, it is an opportunity to identify a road system that the Forest Service can afford to maintain.

Inhabitat reports on Freshkills Park:
Mention "Freshkills" to any New Yorker and the reaction you'll most likely get is "P.U." The name has long been associated with the world's largest landfill, and has made life for many Staten Islanders (where the dump is located), well, stink. But what many people aren't yet aware of is that the long suffering of those folks is soon to be rewarded because a monumental new green space is being developed on the site of the old landfill, which received its last barge of garbage on March 22, 2001, and from what we've seen, it's incredible. At 2,200 acres, Freshkills Park is set to be almost three times the size of Central Park and will be the largest park developed in New York City in over 100 years. That's right, what was the world's biggest collection of garbage is being transformed into a beautiful green space for New Yorkers to hike, play and even ski - and with numerous sustainable strategies already in the works, it's also promising to be one of the most eco-friendly developments in the city.
Also: Fire insurance map typography. A consideration of Wendover (via things). Hakka houses. Photos by Toni Schneiders (via wood s lot). The Mississippi metro. The women of the Irene Mound. The Huntley Film Archives. And Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties.

No movie this week. Instead, click here to defend Planned Parenthood and Title X against Mike Pence and his cronies.

(Photo at top: "Indiana Harbor Belt RR, switchman demonstrating signal with a 'fusee' - used at twilight and dawn - when visibility is poor. This signal means 'back up.'" by Jack Delano, 1943.)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Hope Blogging

Good riddance to Hosni Mubarak:

“I’ve worked my whole life to see the power of the people come to the fore,” activist Rabab Al Mahdi told Al Jazeera through tears. “I never thought I would be alive to see it. It’s not just about Mubarak. It’s a protest that brought about the people’s power to bring about the change that no one, no one thought was possible.”

The euphoria is unimaginable. Peaceful protests, propelled but by no means determined by social media, dislodged a 30-year dictatorship in one of the most important Middle Eastern countries. Neither violent repression nor an Internet shutdown nor mass arrests of Facebook-fueled human rights activists could stop what’s become the #Jan25 revolution.
And Harrison Schmitt:

Ex-astronaut and current climate change denier Harrison Schmitt has withdrawn as the potential New Mexican cabinet secretary for the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.

Schmitt, whose climate inaccuracies (and his refusal to correct obvious errors) have landed him in a pack of trouble of late, may have been telling the truth about his reasons for withdrawing. Or not.

Either way, Schmitt and his Heartland Institute fellow travellers are likely to think twice before again challenging someone with the credibility of Sandia National Laboratories physicist Dr. Mark Boslough, the scientist who revealed Schmitt's most egregious recent false statement about climate change.

Illinois has approved civil unions:
Governor Pat Quinn today signs into law the Illinois Religious Freedom and Protection and Civil Union Act, making civil unions available for same-sex couples in Illinois. The law, drafted by lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, marks an important step toward fairness for thousands of gay and lesbian couples in Illinois. Illinois now joins a growing list of states across the country that provide legal protections to the unions of same-sex couples.
In response, Sam Ritchie at Blog of Rights has created an animated map showing the spread of "relationship recognition for same-sex couples."

In related news, Maggie Gallagher's harebrained bigotry has apparently compelled an opponent of gay marriage to switch sides:

The Senate Judicial Proceedings committee heard 7 hours of testimony last night on whether or not to legalize gay marriage, including from NOM’s Maggie Gallagher. Now one Senator, who was previously a foe, has said her testimony convinced him to support marriage equality.

Senator James Brochin (D) was one of the few Democrat Senators who was opposed to gay marriage. But after listening to testimony from Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization For Marriage (NOM), he’s said that her “demonization” of gay families has convinced him that he should side with marriage equality.

Speaking of which:
"It's really embarrassing, when you think about it. Just the fact that people in this century were actually saying things like, 'No, gays should not be allowed to marry,' and were getting all up in arms about it, as if homosexuals weren't full citizens or something. It's insane."
Female genital mutilation is on the decline:
A joint program between the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) reported that over 6,000 communities in Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Senegal, Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Guinea and Somalia have abandoned the practice of female genital mutilation/ cutting (FGM/C).

Nafissatou Diop, coordinator of the UNFPA-UNICEF program, stated, "We are working in 12 out of 17 priority African countries and have seen real results...In Ethiopia, the prevalence rate has fallen from 80 percent to 74 percent, in Kenya from 32 percent to 27 percent, and in Egypt from 97 percent to 91 percent."
As is the birth rate among US teens:
[T]he rates fell significantly for teens in all age groups and all racial and ethnic groups, pushing the rate for each age group and for nearly all race and ethnic groups to the lowest levels ever reported, according to the analysis.
The North Carolina Department of Revenue will no longer demand private customer information from online retailers:

This settlement is a great win for privacy. While the court's ruling concerned only the specific request issued to Amazon, the settlement covers requests to all Internet retailers who sell books, movies, music, and similar expressive materials. North Carolina has apparently issued similar requests to other Internet retailers, and previously indicated that it planned to issue more such requests in the future. We are pleased that North Carolina has agreed to take a new approach. Requesting information about what people are purchasing online causes real harm, to real people, and it is unconstitutional in these circumstances.

A federal judge has ruled that FOIA documents must have searchable metadata:
The federal government must provide documents "in a usable format" when it responds to Freedom of Information Act requests, a federal judge in Manhattan has ruled.

Southern District of New York Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, after faulting the government for offering "a lame excuse" for delivering non-searchable documents, ruled for the first time that federal agencies must turn over documents that include "metadata," which allows them to be searched and indexed.
The new food safety bill protects whistleblowers:
Food industry workers who become whistleblowers gained protection against retaliation from their employers with a little-noticed provision in the sweeping food safety law President Barack Obama signed last month....

The new law protects workers against retaliation for telling their employers or governmental officials about anything they reasonably believe violates the food safety act and for objecting to performing work they reasonably believe is illegal. The Department of Labor and federal courts can reinstate fired employees and award back pay, interest, attorneys' fees and other damages.

Kentucky will make an effort to keep mentally ill people from buying guns:

On the gun bill, the committee without debate approved House Bill 308, which would require Kentucky to notify the FBI when a court commits people to a mental institution or otherwise finds them mentally incompetent. The FBI would add the names of those people to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, used by federally licensed gun dealers to screen their customers.

Whooping cranes will be reintroduced to Louisiana:

Ten whooping cranes, the most endangered species of crane in the world, will be reintroduced in a Louisiana conservation area more than 60 years after the birds' numbers dwindled to near zero, the U.S. Interior Department said on Tuesday....

The total population, once believed to have numbered more than 15,000, fell to just 15 birds in the 1940s as a result of hunting and habitat loss, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

The entire Louisiana population had been wiped out or removed by the 1950s. The surviving birds all belonged to one flock that migrated between Canada and Texas and is still the only self-sustaining wild population of whooping cranes.

"That's as close to extinction as anything's ever come," said Heather Ray, director of development for Operation Migration. Her group and others have worked to re-establish the whooping crane.

Pacific loggerhead turtles have won some additional protection:

Fewer rare sea turtles will die on the swordfish industry’s longlines in Hawaii under an agreement between environmental groups and the government that settles a lawsuit challenging the feds’ plans to dramatically increase the number of turtles that could be killed. The Center for Biological Diversity, KAHEA and Turtle Island Restoration Network sued the National Marine Fisheries Service for allowing 46 imperiled Pacific loggerhead turtles to be hooked last year; the new court-ordered settlement caps the number at 17 per year. Meanwhile the Fisheries Service is weighing whether loggerheads need more protection under the Endangered Species Act.

As have endangered toads and lilies:
Responding to legal challenges by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today finalized critical habitat for the arroyo toad and thread-leaved brodiaea — a rare Southern California lily. The designation for the toad includes 98,366 acres in Monterey, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange and San Diego counties. The designation for the thread-leaved brodiaea includes 2,947 acres in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange and San Diego counties. The Bush administration tried to designate just 11,695 critical habitat acres for the toad and 597 acres for the brodiaea, but the Center’s legal challenges to both of those decisions led to today’s announcement of far larger areas.
Namibia has turned its entire coastline into a national park:

The Namib-Skeleton Coast National Park covers 26.6 million acres, making it larger than Portugal.

It stretches for 976 miles (1,570km), from the Kunene River, at the northern border with Angola, to the Orange River, on the border with South Africa, and is expected to be promoted as a unified destination. The protected coastline consolidates three national parks: Skeleton Coast, Namib-Naukluft and Sperrgebiet.
Giant rats and face carvings. How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm, after they've seen Cahokia? Photos by Fred Herzog (via wood s lot). And Irandokht: a survey of "devastated identity papers within urban waste of Statistic and Registration Administration":

Conundrums. Early valentines. Sand dunes of the Rub’ al Khali Desert. Biblical metaphors of knowledge in early modern Europe. A visit to Yubileiny. A visit to Sydney. A visit to Iceland. And photos by Peter Henry Emerson:

Radio Aporee. Photos by Fernan Federici (via but does it float). Photos by Chris Porsz (via things). An anomalous SETI signal. Quasicrystal diffraction patterns. Map your voice. And photos of Corpus Christi in the 1930s:

I've also got an animated film for you, believe it or not.

(Image at top: "Composition" by Theodoros Stamos, 1946.)

Friday, February 04, 2011

Friday Hope Blogging

We'll start this week's edition with some remarks by Zach Wahls, who spoke before the Iowa House of Representatives on the soul-annihilating horror of being raised by lesbians:

I scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. I’m actually an Eagle Scout. I own and operate my own small business. And if I was your son, Mr. Chairman, I believe I’d make you very proud....

My family really isn’t so different from yours. After all, your family doesn’t derive its sense of worth from being told by the state, ‘You're married – congratulations.’ No, the sense of family comes from the commitment we make to each other, to work through the hard times so we can enjoy the good ones. It comes from the love that binds us – that’s what makes a family. So what you’re voting here isn’t to change us. It’s not to change our families, it’s to change how the law views us, how the law treats us…So will this vote affect my family? Would it affect yours?

A high school in Pennsylvania has stopped segregating its classrooms:
McCaskey East High School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania has abandoned its pilot "mentoring" program that that separated students by race and gender in their homeroom classrooms following much controversy and negative media attention.

Pedro Rivera, the superintendent, continues to defend the segregation, saying, "The educators was to serve students. They identified a need and were innovative and forward-thinking around how they were going to provide a quality education to kids here at the high school." However, the Lancaster school district rescinded the pilot program after "blistering" criticism of the blatant segregation and racial stereotyping. Unfortunately, few pointed out the sex stereotyping and segregation, which is a violation of Title IX.
Several anti-abortion bills were defeated in the Virginia Senate:

Among those defeated were bills to extend constitutional rights to unborn children (SB1378 and 1207 ); to require an ultrasound before a woman has an abortion (SB1435 ); to make it a crime to force a woman to terminate a pregnancy (SB1217 ); and to prohibit coverage of abortions by medical insurance exchanges set up to comply with the federal health care law except in cases of rape or health risks for women (SB1202 ).

Each of the measures was killed largely on a party line vote by the committee, which is composed of 10 Democrats and five Republicans.

The island of Sark has been designated as a dark-sky community:

Dark-sky communities are places with very little to no light pollution. As a result, the stars are far easier to see and more fun to look at. According to a buzzy article from, Sark is just 4.5 square miles and has "no public street lighting, no paved roads, and no cars." In other words, save for the occasional flashlight or matchstick, there aren't a lot of things to interfere with the nighttime display, which includes "meteors streaking overhead and countless stars on display"....

You can learn more about the dark-sky movement at the IDA's official site.

Shell has once again postponed its plans to drill off the coast of ANWR:

“The polar bear and other wildlife of Alaska’s Arctic, as well as the local communities that depend upon a healthy ocean, were granted a well-deserved reprieve today,” said Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Now, the Department of the Interior needs to turn that short-term reprieve into permanent protection of America’s Arctic.”

Today’s announcement marks the third time that Shell’s plans to drill in the Beaufort Sea have been put on hold in recent years. Drilling in 2007 and subsequent years was stopped by a federal court, which overturned the Interior Department’s approval of Shell’s exploration plan due to poor environmental review. Plans to drill in 2010 were suspended by Interior following the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Shell’s 2011 plan were put in doubt by an Environmental Protection Agency appeals-board decision overturning a necessary air permit, as well as the recent designation of polar bear critical habitat in the drilling area.

The population of Mexican gray wolves is growing:
Fifty Mexican gray wolves, including two breeding pairs, were counted in the wilds of New Mexico and Arizona at the end of 2010, according to a new census conducted by federal and state agencies. The 50 wolves are eight more than the 42 wolves found a year ago, representing the first increase in numbers in four years.
In related news:
Plaintiffs in a lawsuit that asked the federal government to remove endangered Mexican gray wolves from the wild in New Mexico have now filed a motion seeking voluntary dismissal of their suit without prejudice, meaning that they could refile a similar suit later. This is the third unsuccessful suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service attempting to undermine the Mexican wolf recovery program. In this case, the plaintiffs are Catron and Otero counties, two livestock-industry associations and three ranching operations with grazing permits in the Gila National Forest.

“This lawsuit was entirely without merit; the plaintiffs’ motion to dismiss their own suit suggests they realize neither the law nor the facts are on their side,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, which intervened in the lawsuit in support of the government together with Defenders of Wildlife. “With only a few dozen Mexican wolves struggling to survive in the wild, a new rash of federal trapping and shooting would push this unique animal even closer to extinction.”

A federal judge has ordered the BLM to rework plans for ORV use in the California desert:
[T]he court...ruled that the Bush-era West Mojave Plan violated the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act by favoring off-road vehicle use over protection of sensitive desert resources, including endangered species and archeological sites....

The court’s order formally sets aside many of the route designations in the West Mojave while keeping in place critical conservation measures, including limits on development in areas of critical environmental concern and much-needed monitoring of impacts to species, water resources and air quality. It implements the court’s earlier decision, which rejected the Bureau’s use of a route designation “decision tree” to designate areas for off-road vehicles on the basis that it failed to comply with the law requiring minimization of routes in order to limit damage to public lands and disruption of wildlife and habitats.

The National Park Service is calling for restrictions on sunrise and sunset flights over the Grand Canyon:
Key features of the plan include increased flight altitudes near North Rim overlooks, reducing flights in Marble Canyon, moving routes away from some key visitor use areas, and establishing an hour-long flight-free period for an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset. This last change will be especially appreciated by backcountry hikers and river-runners, for it provides two hours a day of true extended natural quiet, at the times when the soft, rich light brings the canyons walls most subtly and dramatically alive.

The proposal caps nearly 25 years of work, initiated in the wake of a 1987 congressional mandate to come up with a plan that “provides for substantial restoration of the natural quiet and experience” of the Canyon.
Analysis of a federally funded early childhood education program shows an ROI of 11:1.

For every $1 invested in a Chicago early childhood education program, nearly $11 is projected to return to society over the children's lifetimes — equivalent to an 18 percent annual return on program investment, according to a study led by University of Minnesota professor of child development Arthur Reynolds in the College of Education and Human Development....

"Our findings provide strong evidence that sustained high-quality early childhood programs can contribute to well-being for individuals and society," said Reynolds, director of the Chicago Longitudinal Study and co-director of the Human Capital Research Collaborative at the University of Minnesota. "The large-scale CPC program has one of the highest economic returns of any social program for young people. As public institutions are being pressed to cut costs, our findings suggest that increasing access to high-quality programs starting in preschool and continuing into the early grades is an efficient use of public resources."

Researchers have found that portions of New Zealand's famed Pink Terraces survived the 1886 eruption of Mt. Tawawera:
The research team, using autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to map the bottom of Lake Rotomahana, are certain they have found the lower portions of the Pink Terraces on the lake floor. Project leader Cornel de Ronde, of GNS Science, said the team was elated by the discovery.

“The first sidescan sonar image gave a hint of a terraced structure so we scanned the area twice more and we are now 95 percent certain we are seeing the bottom two tiers of the Pink Terraces,” de Ronde said.

The Yellow Pages Association has launched an official opt-out site:
The YPA is calling the site the National Yellow Pages Consumer Choice & Opt-Out Site, because it allows you to opt out of all books or choose to receive selected books....

Stopping the delivery of antiquated phone books at the source is the best way to stem their environmental repercussions, which include the needless waste of paper, the energy it takes to produce them, and the CO2 emissions produced by delivering them.

The EPA has announced that it will regulate perchlorates in drinking water:

Said Mae Wu, a Natural Resources Defense Council attorney, "A very long period of bad public policy was reversed today"....

The biggest roadblock to this public protection was the Pentagon, which uses vast amounts of perchlorate in rocket and missile testing, which is suspected to be the major source of groundwater contamination around the country. In 2008, the Bush administration opted not to regulate the chemical.

The decision didn't yet establish a limit for perchlorate, just that it should be regulated. The limit itself will be the next big political battle.

The DC Superior Court has ruled that immigrant whistleblowers do not have to answer questions about their immigration status:
The Court barred the employer's lawyers from asking the plaintiffs and witnesses any questions about their immigration status. The lawyers are not allowed to ask about "immigration status, birthplace, entry into the United States, social security numbers or cards, a “green card” or alien residence card, passports, driver’s licenses, and any other inquiry intended to elicit information with regard to the immigration status of a plaintiff, witness, or person affiliated with a plaintiff or witness in this case."

This is such an important issue for low-wage immigrant workers. So many are afraid to pursue legal remedies. The potential immigration consequences are just so severe. This discovery holding should give immigrants and their advocates the foundation they need to remedy violations or workers' rights.

The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is up and running:
The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rolled out a preliminary version of its website on Thursday, and with it a few indications about the agency's plans to crowdsource prospective regulations that may soon target shady payday lenders.

The CFPB hopes to use its website at to collect data not just from banks, but from consumers, in order to monitor trends in various lending markets. While they're still devising specific plans, the agency hopes to have an active public presence, with a simple, closely-watched platform for borrowers to submit complaints.
Dutch architects are attempting to transform abandoned military bunkers into a "public domain":
Using a diamond-edged saw, it took a month to cut through the bunkers, steel-framed and with concrete walls several metres thick. The marks of the saw are visible on the interior walls (finished with epoxy), which Rietveld compares to a fossil. The gap between the bottom of the bunker and the landscape itself – a result of the fragile, subsiding Dutch ground – has been kept intact....

Unlike other wartime sites marked by great human loss, the Dutch Water Line saw little battle action, which means "we can think more freely about it", Rietveld says. "It makes it much lighter, and it's quite easy to rethink this whole area into a new public space for the Netherlands."
Treehugger reports on a solar energy project in West Virginia:
Mountain View Solar & Wind just installed the largest renewable energy project in West Virginia's Southern Coalfields -- it's an 11 kW rooftop solar panel system, and unemployed coal miners worked to set it up.

So, why is a tiny installation of rooftop solar panels in the middle of West Virginia noteworthy? Because it's the epitome of coal country -- exactly where ideological inroads need to be made before we'll be able to see large-scale climate action. And the first steps towards accomplishing this includes making a tangible demonstration that there's work, and life, beyond coal.
New York plans to extend its smoking ban to parks and beaches:

Some of the toughest anti-smoking measures to be adopted in a major city have been approved by councillors in New York.

The measures are set to extend a smoking ban to municipal parks, beaches and even Times Square....

"This summer, New Yorkers who go to our parks and beaches for some fresh air and fun will be able to breathe even cleaner air and sit on a beach not littered with cigarette butts," Mr Bloomberg said after the 36-12 vote.

Also: Christians protecting praying Muslims in Egypt. David Harvey on The Future of the Commons. Cartes de visite from the Carte Horse Conspiracy. And photos by Abelardo Morell:

Spring Valley Water Works
. Bark's winter garden. Photos by Gerco de Ruijter. Photos by Melanie Willhide. And Manhattan's stolen retro-future.

A guide to the cults. A diagram of slang. A handwritten geography notebook from 1804. Threads of Feeling (via Peacay). Photos by P.B. Abery. The moon and Venus over Switzerland. And some inventions:

And this.

(Photo at top: "Center of town. Woodstock, Vermont. 'Snowy night'" by Marion Post Wolcott, 1940).