Sunday, December 10, 2017

Energy hog Google just bought enough renewables to power its operations for the year

Umair Irfan · Wednesday, December 06, 2017, 2:38 pm

The company uses as much electricity as San Francisco.

Recently, Google announced that it has purchased a whopping 3 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity — equal to what all of its offices and data centers around the world use on an annual basis.

New clean energy purchases bring our total wind and solar capacity to over 3 gigawatts—enough renewables to match 100% of the energy it takes to run our products in 2017.

— Google (@Google) November 30, 2017
The tech giant was able to hit this target of matching 100 percent of its energy use after closing new deals to buy wind and solar power generated in South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Iowa, adding to several purchases it has made since 2012.

It’s a significant accomplishment that affirms Google is more aggressive about buying renewable energy for its operations than any of its corporate peers. But let’s be clear: This does not mean Google is “powered” by renewables. Instead, the company hit this mark by buying renewable energy certificates (RECs), which ensure a certain quantity of wind and solar electricity is allocated to a given use. In other words, Google bought renewable power in quantities that match its use, even though that renewable electricity isn’t necessarily powering its operations directly.

“We are purchasing the energy and selling it back into the market in regions where we can't consume it,” Google spokesperson Amy Atlas told me in an email.

But this isn’t just an accounting gimmick. RECs are a huge market driver for renewable power, and Google’s purchases are part of a larger trend of companies lighting a fire under utilities to build cleaner energy sources.

And in an era when the highest levels of government are undermining clean power, buying renewable energy is a major way for the private sector to advance the ball on climate change through moving toward lower-carbon generation. “We want our efforts to result in new renewable energy projects, not reshuffling the output from existing projects,” according to a Google blog post.

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Whistleblower To Dems: Flynn Promised Biz Associate He'd Gut Russia Sanctions

Tierney Sneed · Wednesday, December 06, 2017, 2:18 pm

On Inauguration Day 2017, business associate of former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn touted texts from Flynn promising to gut Russian sanctions that were hindering the nuclear project the associate was pushing, a whistleblower has told House Democrats. The texts were timestamped as being sent just as President Trump was delivering his Inaugural Address, the whistleblower said.

The whistleblower told Democrats that the associate had been informed by Flynn that the project was “good to go” and that the sanctions would be “ripped up.”

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Susan Collins thinks Mainers are as easily hoodwinked as she's been on tax bill

By Joan McCarter 
Friday Dec 08, 2017 · 11:00 AM EST

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), facing tremendous pressure from her constituents in Maine over her vote for the massively destructive tax bill, is pedaling furiously to justify her vote. She's even gone so far as to suggest that maybe she won't vote for the final bill if her demands are met, then attempted to change her own goalposts.
"I would. I'm going to look at what comes out of the conference committee meeting to reconcile the differences between the Senate and House Bill. So I won't make a final decision until I see what that package is. There's a real fear that the tax bill is going to trigger a 4% cut in Medicare. I am absolutely certain that 4% cut in Medicare that I mentioned will not occur. I have it in writing from both the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and also Senator Mitch McConnell."
Here Collins is acting as though the only promise she extracted from Mitch McConnell in the tax bill was that Medicare would not be subject to additional automatic cuts, on top of the 2 percent cut in place from the sequester. Oh, but she has that "in writing" from McConnell and Paul Ryan. Yeah, well, when the sequester cuts were put in place in 2013, leadership promised that Medicare cuts would never, ever happen. That the Super Committee (remember that?) would step in and figure it all out. What happened? The Super Committee failed and dissolved.

Thousands of cancer patients were turned away from clinics because, yes, the 2 percent cuts kicked in and where they hit was in the loss of payments for expensive chemotherapy drugs. Now Medicare is facing a potential 4 percent cut on top of the 2 percent cut implemented four years ago. But sure, she's got a promise in writing that it won't happen this time.

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We’re lawyers who support same-sex marriage. We also support the Masterpiece Cakeshop baker.

Thomas C. Berg · Wednesday, December 06, 2017, 11:38 am

Same-sex marriage and religious liberty can coexist.

The Supreme Court heard argument yesterday in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The issue is whether a conservative Christian baker who believes that weddings are inherently religious and that same-sex marriages are religiously prohibited can be required to design and create a cake to celebrate the wedding of a same-sex couple.

The case tests the nation’s commitment to liberty and justice for all. And we aren’t doing well on the part about “for all.” Too many Americans, left and right, religious and secular, want liberty for their own side in the culture wars, but not for the other side.

The Supreme Court sometimes succumbs to these cultural divisions, but perhaps this time it will do better. In Obergefell v. Hodges, announcing the constitutional right to same-sex marriage, Justice Anthony Kennedy and the four liberals opened their opinion by declaring, “The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach,” a liberty that allows persons “to define and express their identity.”

Masterpiece Cakeshop tests whether they meant it. Conservative believers are also within the Constitution’s reach. Does the Constitution protect their right to define and express their identity in religious terms equally with the right of same-sex couples to define and express their identity in sexual terms? It should.

The two of us, in briefs and articles, have long urged judges, legislators, and our fellow citizens to protect the right of same-sex couples to marry and also protect the right of religious dissenters not to assist with those marriages. That does not mean undercutting nondiscrimination laws in most cases of commercial goods and services. The Court can recognize a carefully defined right in the case of Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, and make room for both sides in the culture wars.

This is a unique event: a wedding. That makes a difference.

The wedding baker’s job, like that of the caterer, florist, photographer, and bridal shop, is to make his part of the wedding the best and most memorable it can be. He is promoting the wedding and the marriage it celebrates. Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, says he cannot do that. Many bakers may feel that their responsibility ends when they deliver the cake. But Phillips feels morally responsible for what he creates and helps to celebrate.

The result is that Phillips no longer makes wedding cakes for anybody. He has surrendered 40 percent of his business and laid off half his employees. Unless the Supreme Court intervenes, this is a permanent loss of occupation. His alternative was to permanently surrender his conscience.

And to what end? To avoid the one-time offense to the same-sex couple of being turned away and being reminded of what they knew anyway: that some Americans still disapprove of their relationship. Their right to be married and to a wedding cake were never at issue. Many bakers were eager for their business, and when the story broke, the couple promptly accepted an offer of a free wedding cake.

Same-sex couples and religious dissenters make parallel claims to liberty. They each argue that a core aspect of their identity is so fundamental that it should be left to each individual, free of all nonessential regulation. Their conduct cannot be separated from their sexual orientation or their religious beliefs. Believers can no more fail to act on their understanding of God's will than all gays and lesbians can remain celibate.

They each seek to live out their identities in public as well as in private. Same-sex couples are entitled to free access to the marketplace, but so are religious dissenters. The question is how to maximize access for both sides without requiring either to surrender core elements of their identity.

Finally, both religious dissenters and same-sex couples are condemned by many other Americans. One side sees bigotry; the other side sees sin. Blue states refuse to protect religious liberty; red states refuse to enact gay-rights laws.

Most of the commentary on the case has focused on Phillips’s free speech claim. But the Court can decide the case on narrower grounds under the Free Exercise Clause, as we urged in a friend-of-the-court brief.

The free exercise claim is inherently limited to sincere religious objectors. And, in this case, it is largely limited to weddings, a context that Phillips and many other believers understand as religious. Phillips claims no right to refuse service to gays and lesbians more generally. Any merchant who did so would have a losing case. For if merchants could discriminate anywhere and in any context, the obstacle to LGBTQ participation in the marketplace would be much greater, and the government’s interest in protecting them would be much greater. There may be religious conservatives who argue for that; Phillips and his responsible supporters do not.

Of course Phillips’s opponents exaggerate his claim as much as possible. They strain to analogize his case to Jim Crow restaurants turning away blacks, or a fundamentalist-owned bank refusing to handle women’s accounts. Courts would properly reject such ongoing denials of service — and they did in the Jim Crow era. This case involves a wedding, an event that we all hope to be the center of only once, and even if things go badly, no more than a very few times. This is not the same as a restaurant or bank — it’s a rare occasion.

Secular versus religious exceptions are unevenly enforced

The free exercise claim has been neglected because too many people have read too much into the Supreme Court’s 1990 decision in Employment Division v. Smith. The Court said that the Free Exercise Clause does not apply to laws that are “neutral and generally applicable.” So Oregon could apply its “across-the-board criminal prohibition” to ban Native Americans from using peyote as their sacrament in worship services.

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Doctors Find Brain Abnormalities In US Embassy Victims Of Cuba Health Attacks

Josh Lederman · Wednesday, December 06, 2017, 10:18 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — Doctors treating the U.S. Embassy victims of mysterious, invisible attacks in Cuba have discovered brain abnormalities as they search for clues to explain the hearing, vision, balance and memory damage, The Associated Press has learned.

It’s the most specific finding to date about physical damage, showing that whatever it was that harmed the Americans, it led to perceptible changes in their brains. The finding is also one of several factors fueling growing skepticism that some kind of sonic weapon was involved.

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Religiously speaking

If it's a new day in the U.S., expect more GunFail

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Police: Brother arrested in teen's accidental shooting death

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Teen shooting victim stable after surgery
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Second teen arrested in shooting that killed 12-year-old boy, wounded 5 teens
CLEVELAND, Ohio - Law enforcement arrested a second teen in connection with the Friday shooting that killed a 12-year-old boy outside his father's beauty supply store and wounded five teenagers. U.S. Marshals and Cleveland police arrested the 15-year-old boy about 8:50 a.m. Tuesday at his ...

The Lenexa Costco shooting: This is how we live now
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Accountant Shot by Park Police Has Died; Family Says He Was Unarmed
Eleven days after U.S. Park Police chased and shot a driver in Fairfax County, Virginia, the FBI identified him and said he has died. Bijan Ghaisar, 25, of McLean, Virginia, died Monday, the FBI said Tuesday. Police shothim 10 days earlier, the night of Friday, Nov. 17 near George Washington Parkway ...

"Our children are dying:" 2 Woodland Hills students shot, killed in 3 days
Jerame Turner, a junior at the school, was shot multiple times in the 400 block of George Street in Turtle Creek around 11 p.m. Monday. A 13-year-old ...

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Political posters to ponder 12.10.2017