Myanmar says President to make official US visit
Myanmar’s reformist President Thein Sein will visit the White House next week, the first such trip by a Myanmar head of state in almost 47 years and a sign of warming ties.
Myanmar state television announced the U.S. visit Monday, saying it comes at the invitation of President Barack Obama. It gave no exact date, but congressional staffers in Washington who were briefed on the upcoming trip said Thein Sein would meet Obama May 20.
The last Myanmar leader to visit the White House was the late dictator Ne Win in 1966.
Clinton announces Latin America initiative
The Clinton Global Initiative is taking its formula of a powerhouse gathering of global leaders to a new part of the world.
Former President Bill Clinton said Monday that the first Clinton Global Initiative Latin America is scheduled for December 8-10 in Rio de Janeiro. He made the announcement in New York City, at the mid-year meeting for his annual September conference, which brings together leaders in politics, business and philanthropy to tackle the world’s biggest problems.
He was joined by the Brazilian city’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, along with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the start of a session discussing climate change and how cities can deal with it.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a CGI commitment that a group of the world’s cities would be taking: The creation of an assessment framework for evaluating risks from climate change.
The framework from the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group would allow for a common standard that could be used by cities all over the world as they try to figure out what actions to prioritize in trying to mitigate climate change, Bloomberg said in introducing the commitment.
“Cities can’t afford to close their eyes and hope for the best,” he said. “In many cases, we’ve already caught a glimpse of what the future may hold.”
He added, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
Bloomberg is the current chairman of C40, which was started in 2005 and is a network of cities around the world looking to implement local actions that can impact climate change.
Washington is most bike-friendly state for sixth year
For the sixth year in a row, Washington has been named the nation’s most bicycle-friendly state. Colorado and Oregon came in second and third on the yearly list that gives national bragging rights and is closely followed by the cycling community.
The rankings are bestowed by the League of American Bicyclists. Begun in 2008, they are based on funding for biking legislation, bike programs and policies, infrastructure, education and planning.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee attributes his state’s standing to embracing biking as a “form of transportation that enhances our quality of life and honors our environment.”
As of 2012, the U.S. employs more than119,000 people in solar jobs, an increase of 13 percent over 2011.
(Photo via NBC Nightly News)
For former trucker Sue Wiese, obstacles don’t get in the way of her drive to save pets’ lives.
The 69-year-old Texas grandmother is the founder of Operation Roger, a group of volunteer truck drivers who transport animals from kill shelters and rescue groups to families willing to adopt them.
SEATTLE (Reuters) - Washington state’s governor signed into law on Monday the final piece of a six-year effort to rewrite state laws using gender-neutral vocabulary, replacing terms such as “fisherman” and “freshman” with “fisher” and “first-year student.”
While this may not have an immediate tangible effect, words and language play a significant role in shaping how we think, and mandating gender-neutral language in state statutes is a great first step in the right direction. The article notes that some words, such as “manhole,” won’t be replaced, because legislators couldn’t think of any other alternatives (whether or not “personhole cover” will ever gain traction remains to be seen).
Canada, U.S. agree to work together to improve Great Lakes water quality
Environment Minister Peter Kent and Lisa Jackson, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, signed the updated deal in a brief ceremony in Washington on Friday.
The amendments address problems with invasive aquatic species, habitat degradation and the effects of climate change.
They also support continued work on existing threats to health and the environment in the Great Lakes Basin such as harmful algae, toxic chemicals and shipping discharges.
The updated agreement also calls for developing plans to protect and restore near-shore areas, the primary source of drinking water for Great Lakes communities and the area where most commerce and recreation occurs.
It agrees on the need to develop conservation strategies to protect native species and restore habitat.
The National Park Service has named two new natural landmarks that serve as preserves of once-ubiquitous ecosystems.
Obama, Putin set up two rounds of talks
U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday set up two rounds of talks in coming months in a bid to move past a fight over human rights and seek common ground on issues such as Iran, Syria and North Korea.
The announcement of an Obama-Putin summit in early September, added to plans for a meeting at a G8 summit in Northern Ireland in June, suggested the two leaders want to revive the momentum from a reset in relations despite tensions over the so-called Magnitsky List.
Tiny tremors extracted from seismic records collected in the 1990s revealed the shape of the cavern and geyser conduit.
Activists win a victory against antibiotics in organic apple and pear production
After a meeting in Portland, OR this week, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) rejected a petition to extend a loophole allowing the use of antibiotics in the production of organic apples and pears.
The loophole will expire on October 21, 2014.
The antibiotics in question, oxytetracycline and streptomycin, are used to treat fire blight in apple and pear production. However, safer biological methods using beneficial bacteria or yeast can also prevent fire blight from infecting new trees. Farmers who export to overseas markets already use the safer methods, as many countries outside of the US have banned the use of antibiotics in organic agriculture.
The decision came after activists from Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports), Food & Water Watch, and the Center for Food Safety delivered more than 30,000 petition signatures urging the NOSB to reject the use of antibiotics in organic farming. The groups argued for rejection of the loophole in order to meet consumer expectations about the integrity of the organic label and to respond to mounting evidence that antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a serious threat to public health.
Antibiotics are not allowed in any other types of organic food, including production of organic livestock.
In order to help farmers transition to antibiotic-free control methods, the Board also passed a resolution to encourage the USDA to investigate a transitional option for the emergency use of oxytetracycline until 2017. The agency must guarantee that any emergency use is extremely limited, ends as soon as possible and, most importantly, apples and pears from treated trees cannot be sold as organic.
82% of New US Electrical Capacity is Renewable Energy
During the first quarter of 2013, renewable energy accounted for 82% of new electrical generating capacity in the US, and 100% in March.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) says that 1546 megawatts (MW) of renewables came online, along with 340 MW of natural gas. No new coal, oil or nuclear capacity has been added this year so far.
Six wind farms came online totaling 958 MW, 38 solar farms at 537 MM and 28 biomass plants added 46 MW. Four small hydro plants added 5.4 MW.
The solar added is more than double that of the first quarter last year.
Including hydro, renewable energy now accounts for almost 16% of US electrical generating capacity: hydro - 8.53%; wind - 5.18%; biomass - 1.30%; solar - 0.44%; and geothermal - 0.32%. This is more than nuclear (9.15%) and oil (3.54%) combined.
Note that generating “capacity” isn’t the same as actual generation. In terms of net electrical generation, renewables supply a bit more than 13%, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
In 2012, renewables accounted for almost half of all new electrical generating capacity - 46.22%.
“These additions understate actual solar capacity gains. Unlike other energy sources, significant levels of solar capacity exist in smaller, non-utility-scale applications - e.g., rooftop solar photovoltaics,” says EIA.
Solar plane to set out to cross U.S. in early May
The first crossing of the United States by a solar-powered plane is expected to start in just over a month, its creators said on Thursday, as they make final preparations for an attempt two years from now at the first round-the-world flight without any fuel.
Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard and project co-founder and pilot Andre Borschberg, whose Solar Impulse made its first intercontinental flight from Spain to Morocco last June, aim for their plane to take off from near San Francisco in early May and land at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport about two months later.
U.S.-Spain Partnership Plans World’s Largest Solar Towers
A U.S.-based company that will soon finish construction of one of the world’s largest solar thermal power plants in the Mojave Desert, is now looking to build an even larger plant in Southern California.
BrightSource Energy, which is expected to begin producing up to 370 megawatts of electricity per day from its Mojave plant beginning this summer, last week announced plans to build, in partnership with Spain-based Abengoa Solar, a 500-megawatt plant in Riverside, California.
Like the Mojave project, the new solar array will utilize thousands of mirrors that reflect sunlight onto central towers to produce steam. While the company’s first project, the so-called Ivanpah plant, will use three towers to generate 130 megawatts each, the new $2.6 billion project involves construction of two 750-foot towers capable of producing 250 megawatts each, which combined would provide enough electricity to power 200,000 households and prevent 17 million tons of carbon emissions during the life of the plant, BrightSource says.
While high costs and regulatory hurdles remain a challenge for the emerging technology sector (BrightSource shelved another plant earlier this year), California utilities are still eying the technology since state regulations will require that they deliver one-third of their power from renewable sources by 2030, MIT’s Technology Review reports.
Saplings from Anne Frank’s chestnut tree take root in U.S.
Saplings from the chestnut tree that stood as a symbol of hope for Anne Frank as she hid from the Nazis for two years in Amsterdam are being distributed to 11 locations in the United States as part of a project that aims to preserve her legacy and promote tolerance.
The tree, one of the Jewish teenager’s only connections to nature while she hid with her family in a Secret Annex in her father’s company building, was diseased and rotted through the trunk when wind and heavy rain toppled it in August 2010. But saplings grown from its seeds will be planted starting in April, when the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis will put the first one in the ground.