Mexican Supreme Court rules gay marriage valid nationwide


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Mexico’s supreme court has ruled that same-sex marriages in Mexico City must be recognised throughout the country. The ruling does not mean other states have to allow gay weddings on their territory.

Two of the court’s 11 judges voted against the measure, arguing that it would damage the harmony of the federal system.

Last week the supreme court ruled that the law allowing gay marriages in the capital was constitutional.

The court will now consider the legality of allowing adoption by gay couples.

Mexico City’s local assembly passed the law in December, giving gay people full marital rights, including the right to adopt. Hundreds of gay and lesbian couples have since been married.

However, the law drew strong opposition from the Catholic Church and conservative groups, including the governing PAN party, and federal prosecutors challenged it on constitutional grounds.

I’m a bit surprised. I guess I’m too accustomed to politicians in the United States. Cowardice is always the better part of valor, here. Stone Age beliefs often overrule political progress – especially when it comes to equal opportunity.

The same generally holds true for our judges.

So – good for you Mexico. Nice to see some good news come from your battered nation.

Get the most out of the meteor show

This year’s Perseid meteor shower is shaping up as a beaut. The big night is next Thursday, but anytime now is a great time for skywatching – not only to see shooting stars, but to see the planets as well.

The Perseids are among the year’s best-known meteor showers, especially for mid-northern latitudes. Here’s why: The show begins ramping up in late July and hits its peak around Aug. 12-13, when it’s usually pleasant to hang around outdoors in the northern hemisphere. Perseid meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus, which is high up in the sky at about 3:30 a.m. in northern latitudes – prime time for meteor watching.

But the big attraction comes down to how many shooting stars you can see: During this time of year, Earth plows through the trails of space grit that have been laid down by Comet Swift-Tuttle as it makes its 130-year orbit around the sun. When those particles of grit zip through the upper atmosphere, they heat up and create those bright streaks we all know and love.

Fortunately for meteor-watchers, there’s a lot of grit out there…

Skywatchers have tracked the Perseids for centuries….The sky conditions are nearly ideal for this year’s show, because the moon will be just a few days past its new phase. When the moon is full, its glare overwhelms the meteor flashes in the night sky, making viewing problematic. But this year’s crescent moon will be far below the horizon by midnight, when the meteor show enters prime time.

I’ve already seen one phenomenal fireball. It was an evening with a solid – but high up – overcast. A beautiful red fireball dropped from the bottom of the overcast and followed a visual track just as if it was a flare dropped from an airplane. Which meant it was proceeding directly away from me.

Stayed solid and glowing red till it disappeared beyond my sight line. Over the apparent horizon which, in my case, was a line of hills less than 10 miles away. Outstanding.

French criminals and the short arm of the law


Certainly works OK left of the Channel

France has ended restrictions barring people under 1.6 meters (5’3″) from joining the police force.

The country of Napoleon imposed minimum height requirements for police centuries ago, raising them over the decades as the average size of Frenchmen rose, but the rules have come to be seen as discriminatory.

“Entry into all active categories of the national police is no longer reserved for candidates whose height exceeds 1.60m,” the French Labor Ministry said in a statement.

“From now on the conditions of entry will be linked exclusively to the ability to carry out the relevant duties…”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s height is estimated at around 1.65 meters, roughly the same size as French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.

Police union Alliance Police Nationale welcomed the move, saying the previous requirements had prevented candidates who were “morally, physically and intellectually” capable of working as police.

France has decided not to change the minimum height restriction for the military – though I can think of circumstances where it might be an advantage to be a smaller target.

Did Google buy UAV to spy on you?


Secret Nazi World War II experimental drone – uncovered by the Register

Google is planning to use unmanned “spy drones” like those used by special forces to improve its maps, according to an aircraft manufacturer.

Sven Juerss, the chief executive of Microdrones GmbH, a German firm which builds unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), has said that his company has supplied Google with one aircraft already and expects to provide “dozens” more in the future.

However, Google has moved swiftly to deny that the purchase was for company use – Peter Barron, a spokesman for the firm’s UK office, told the Telegraph: “Google is not testing or using this technology. This was a purchase by a Google executive with an interest in robotics for personal use…”

The UAV, known as a “hicam microdrone”, is less than 1m wide and weighs less than a kilogram. It has four battery-powered rotors and can stay in the air for more than an hour. It navigates itself automatically and can take high-quality photographs of large areas beneath it…

It seems likely that the drones will start a new Google privacy row, despite the shots not being significantly different from existing aerial photography. Street View, the ground-level photography of the world’s streets, sparked controversy as various photographs were claimed to invade people’s privacy. The pictures included images of celebrities’ and politicians’ houses, people leaving sex shops and one image of a naked three-year-old boy.

Geeks of all flavors, monomaniac libertarians – have another opportunity to join forces with more traditional religious nutballs and protest this obvious invasion by Techno-Overlords. And let’s don’t leave out those who turn class divisions inside out and treat anyone part of a corporate entity larger than three people selling vanilla ice cream – as an evil empire.

No matter. Techno-paranoia produces lockstep blather and noise as predictably as a Gay interracial couple on holiday walking into a church for a few photos.

Demon-wary Georgia pastor arrested while protesting high school demon mascot


This is the mascot. Stop laughing!

Charges: Picketing without a license and disorderly conduct

Warner Robins police say they’ve charged pastor Donald Crosby with picketing without a license for protesting Warner Robins High School’s “Demon” nickname and mascot.

Police spokeswoman Tabitha Pugh says 36-year-old Crosby was arrested on Monday after police told him he didn’t have a permit, as required by the city.

Crosby and supporters set up the protest outside the school on the opening day of classes because of their opposition to the nickname. He says his son attends the school and he doesn’t want him exposed to the name’s connotations.

I wonder if he’s afraid of falling off the edge of the earth too.

$240 geek design project = $40,000 industry standard results


My senior project — Andrew Miller

A compact microscope invented at Rice University is proving its potential to impact global health.

Rice alumnus Andrew Miller ’09 created a 2.5-pound battery-operated fluorescence microscope as his senior design project last year. The goal was to make an inexpensive, portable and highly capable microscope that could be used in clinics in developing countries that have limited access to lab equipment and lack electricity.

In a paper published online this week in the journal PLoS ONE, Rice alumnus Andrew Miller ’09 and co-authors show that his portable, battery-operated fluorescence microscope, which costs $240, stacks up nicely against devices that retail for as much as $40,000 in diagnosing signs of tuberculosis…

Miller created the 2.5-pound microscope as his senior design project last year. He worked with faculty in Rice 360˚: Institute for Global Health Technologies. The goal was to make an inexpensive, portable and highly capable microscope that could be used in clinics in developing countries that have limited access to lab equipment and lack electricity.

The microscope was built with off-the-shelf parts encased in a rugged plastic shell Miller created with a 3-D printer at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK). Light to power the 1,000-times magnification microscope comes from a top-mounted LED flashlight.

The Global Focus microscope won this year’s Hershel M. Rich Invention Award, which is presented annually by Rice Engineering Alumni to a Rice faculty member or student who has developed an original invention. It was the first undergraduate project to win the award.

Good for you, dude – and congrats to Rice University for turning out useful students.

China orders polluting and unsafe factories to shut down


Time’s up!

China has ordered more than 2,000 highly polluting, unsafe or energy inefficient plants to shut down within two months.

Environmental campaigners welcomed the measure, saying the announcement went well beyond previous orders in naming specific facilities and outlining stiff penalties for firms that do not comply by the end of September.

The notice from the ministry of industry and information technology covers 18 industries including steel, paper, cement and dyeing, according to Shanghai Securities News and other media. It includes companies across the country and will affect parts of the Aluminium Corporation of China, better known as Chalco, and Hebei Iron and Steel Group, the country’s biggest steelmaker.

There is no doubt this announcement is significant, especially because it is complete with real consequences; if they don’t meet the target they will be barred from obtaining loans, for example,” said Alex Wang, of the Natural Resources Defence Council…

Beijing’s target is to reduce energy intensity – the amount used to generate each unit of gross domestic product – by 20% from the 2005 level…

The list included 762 cement factories, 279 paper mills, 175 steel mills, 192 coking plants and an unspecified number of aluminum mills.

“Overdue” – often my comment on questions of environment – doesn’t quite fit.

Just as the Chinese nation is skipping whole centuries in the course of bringing their economy from feudal compradore capitalism into the 21st Century – they also have decades of ecological understanding and law to accomplish in less time than the decades it took most western industrial nations.

The job isn’t complete, here.

It ain’t ever easy.