Transforming the world’s least sustainable city

Cities Rising: Transforming the world’s least sustainable city

Katie Couric, Cities Rising        August 9, 2017

By Alexandra Zaslow

Phoenix is throwing away the reputation it once had as the world’s least sustainable city and making great strides to become more resourceful.

It has launched a Reimagine Phoenix Initiative with a goal to increase the city’s waste diversion rate to 40 percent by 2020 — and it doesn’t stop there.

“We’re going straight to zero waste by the year 2050,” said Ginger Spencer, the city’s public works director.

With 1 million tons of waste being sent to the landfill annually, Phoenix began to devise ways to become a more sustainable city.

The Resource Innovation Campus was created to “redefine” trash for Phoenix’s residents and businesses.

“Ironically, one of our most innovative departments is the [one] that most people would think was the most kind of old-school, traditional department,” Mayor Greg Stanton said. “We’re turning it on its head and saying that needs to be the most innovative place in the entire city of Phoenix.”

On the Resource Innovation Campus sits a 27-acre transfer station for compost and recycling, as well as 50 acres of land for businesses. In partnership with the city, the Resource Innovation and Solutions Network Incubator, located on the campus, works with entrepreneurs and small businesses to turn the city’s trash into resources.

“What we’re throwing away and things that we’re recycling actually have a tremendous amount of value,” said Alicia Marseille, director of the incubator.

Sustainability isn’t just happening on that campus: The entire city of Phoenix is working to become more resourceful.

Across the city, streetlights are switching over to LEDs and roofs of city buildings and facilities are switching to solar.

“Phoenix is leading the way,” Stanton said. “That’s what we owe future generations.”

A photographer captured these dismal photos of life in North Korea on his phone

Business Insider

A photographer captured these dismal photos of life in North Korea on his phone

Melia Robinson         August 10, 2017 walk to school in Tumangang, North Korea, in August 2015.Xiaolu Chu/Getty

As North Korea continues its saber-rattling about nuclear strikes, we still know very little about the country.

The North Korean government is notoriously secretive. Upon entering the country, visitors are instructed on what they can and cannot take pictures of. Customs agents inspect your cellphone and other digital devices, including cameras, tablets, and storage cards, for banned content.

These restrictions prompted Getty photographer Xiaolu Chu to travel by train through the country in August 2015, documenting everyday life through his phone lens. He told Business Insider it was too risky to use a high-end camera because locals would report him to the police.

While some images were deleted during run-ins with the police, Chu shared some snapshots with us. Take a look at life inside North Korea.

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Chu took the long way around during his visit to North Korea. Chu/Getty

Most Chinese tourists enter by train through Sinuiju or by plane through Pyongyang. He instead traveled to Russia so he could access the northern port at Tumangang. Maps

The train ride from Tumangang to Pyongyang — the capital of North Korea — lasts a day. It was canceled because of a dispute between North Korea and South Korea. Chu/Getty

“Fortunately, we had a whole day to go out and take some pictures in the village,” Chu said. Chu/Getty

He saw scores of people living in abject poverty. Many begged for money. Chu/Getty

“There are nearly no fat people in North Korea, everyone looks very thin,” Chu said. Chu/Getty

Many of the residential buildings looked run down and in need of repair. Chu/Getty

When he later returned to the train station, he noticed portraits of the country’s former leaders and the words “long live” hanging overhead. Chu/Getty

At night, these shrines were the only lit structures in the village. Other buildings sat in darkness. Chu/Getty

The next day, he boarded a train for the nation’s capital. Chu/Getty

A customs agent on board checked his tablet to make sure it wasn’t GPS-enabled. The government also jams signals as a security measure.

Xiaolu Chu/Getty

The customs agent also checked his laptop and DSLR camera. Chu said the agent had no trouble operating the devices, with the exception of the MacBook. Chu/Getty

The train chugged along, giving Chu glimpses of everyday life. This boy collected corn cobs beside the tracks. Chu/Getty

Many people rode bicycles to get around. Chu/Getty

Some scenes were quaint. Children took an afternoon dip in a river. Chu/Getty

Anytime the train pulled into a station, there were painful reminders of the country’s poor living conditions. This little boy begged for money at a station in Hamhung. Chu/Getty

Korean People’s Army soldiers rested on the tracks. Chu/Getty

Whenever he hopped out, Chu shot photos on his phone. “DSLR is too obvious to take pictures in that condition as people in the village were extremely vigilant,” he said. Chu/Getty

Several locals reported him to the police. “A policeman and a solider stopped us and checked our cellphone. I hid most of the pictures, [but a] few pictures were deleted,” he said. Chu/Getty

The tourism bureau encourages visitors to take photos of student-exercise groups. These kids rehearsed for a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea. Chu/Getty

Photography of anti-American protests is also welcomed. These students were marching against South Korea and the US. Chu/Getty

Eventually, Chu reached the railway station in Pyongyang. Chu/Getty

We asked Chu if he was scared of retribution for publishing the photos from his trip. Chu/Getty

“No, absolutely not,” he said. Chu/Getty

SEE ALSO: A photographer captured these shocking photos of one of the world’s most densely populated slums

David Brooks, Famed Conservative-Politics Writer Is Burned Out By Trump, Leaving Politics For Good

Daily Kos

David Brooks, Famed Conservative-Politics Writer Is Burned Out By Trump, Leaving Politics For Good

By ursulafaw     August 9, 2017 

What will we ever do without David Brooks and his moral compass?

David Brooks doesn’t love us any more and has informed the New York Times that he will no longer be writing about politics in their pages. More specifically, David Brooks doesn’t love the Republicans any more, after seeing the lengths to which they were and are willing to go to maintain power. Brooks particularly doesn’t love Donald Trump any more, saying about Trump, There’s nothing more to be learned about Trump’s mixture of ignorance, insecurity and narcissism. Every second spent on his bluster is more degrading than informative. That sounds about right. Crooks & Liars:

Future historians who want to get a good bead on what things were like during the inmates-running-the-asylum madhouse of American politics in the Year of our Lord 2017 could do worse than study Mr. David Brooks’ column in The New York Times today in some detail.

It is no exaggeration to say that Mr. Brooks spent every hour of his professional career boosting Republicans and Conservatism, mocking Democrats and Liberals, and relentlessly positioning himself as America’s Most Ubiquitous Conservative Public Intellectual.  And yet, in 2017 during the Republican Party’s Year of Jubilee — the year when Mr. Brooks’ Republican Party owned every branch of the federal government and Mr. Brooks’ Conservative Movement had effectively conquered the media both through direct propaganda efforts (Fox News/Hate Radio/etc.) and by bludgeoning the “mainstream media” into a state of meek complicity — Mr. Brooks announced that he was suddenly sick and tired writing about Conservatism or politics.

Which means that, other than the brief “Jewels of Nuance” period during the Age of Bush when Mr. Brooks (and every other Conservative writer) felt it was finally safe to let their inner Sean Hannity completely out and use their public platforms to heap unalloyed contempt and slander on the Dirty Libtards, Mr. Brooks has spent most of his career assiduously avoiding any actual, honest reportage on the state of Conservative politics and culture.

David Brooks, whether he would ever admit it or not, is responsible for this “false equivalence” insanity which has overtaken the media, “both sides do it,” ad nausem.

Instead, Mr. Brooks has been in the business of delighting his employers and media colleagues by spinning elaborate fairy tales about how cool the GOP used to be, or how terrific the GOP was going to be in the near future, or how awesome it would be if we had a third party because both the Republicans and the Democrats sucked so hard. It didn’t really matter to his employers and colleagues in what order Mr. Brooks told his three basic lies, and it didn’t really matter how quickly reality would overtake them and smash them to bits every single time.  All that mattered was that, whatever five-alarm sh*tfire the Republican Party was dancing nekkid around today shrieking about Kenyan Death Panels and Emails and Benghaaazi…Mr. Brooks’ could be counted on to deliver 800 words of tapioca explaining that, somehow, Both Sides were always to blame.

Brooks is partly responsible for this Frankenstein’s monster being in the White House, but he won’t cop to it.

But of all of those who profited personally, politically and professionally from debasing our media and corroding our politics, the worst of them were those who knew better.  Those like Mr. David Brooks, who made a whole career out of building a monster, and then frantically scuttled away and blamed everyone but themselves when the monster they made kicked the laboratory door off its hinges and then ran amok, nearly destroying the country.

These are his final words to us:

“One way or another I’m gonna wash that man [Trump] right outta what’s left of my hair.”

Thanks, David. Don’t worry about anything, we’ll clean up the mess. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass.

New York Times   Opinion Pages

Getting Trump Out of My Brain

David Brooks, Op-Ed Columnist       August 8, 2017 Trump salutes a soldier on his way to Marine One at the White House this month. Credit Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Last week The Washington Post published transcripts of Donald Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders. A dear friend sent me an email suggesting I read them because they reveal how Trump’s mind works. But as I tried to click the link a Bartleby-like voice in my head said, “I would prefer not to.” I tried to click again and the voice said: “No thanks. I’m full.”

For the past two years Trump has taken up an amazing amount of my brain space. My brain has apparently decided that it’s not interested in devoting more neurons to that guy. There’s nothing more to be learned about Trump’s mixture of ignorance, insecurity and narcissism. Every second spent on his bluster is more degrading than informative.

Now a lot of people are clearly still addicted to Trump. My Twitter feed is all him. Some people treat the Trump White House as the “Breaking Bad” serial drama they’ve been binge watching for six months. For some of us, Trump-bashing has become educated-class meth. We derive endless satisfaction from feeling morally superior to him — and as Leon Wieseltier put it, affirmation is the new sex.

But I thought I might try to listen to my brain for a change. That would mean trying, probably unsuccessfully, to spend less time thinking about Trump the soap opera and more time on questions that surround the Trump phenomena and this moment of history.

How much permanent damage is he doing to our global alliances? Have Americans really decided they no longer want to be a universal nation with a special mission to spread freedom around the world? Is populism now the lingua franca of politics so the Democrats’ only hope is to match Trump’s populism with their own?

These sorts of questions revolve around one big question: What lessons are people drawing from this debacle and how will those lessons shape what comes next?

It’s clear that Trump is not just a parenthesis. After he leaves things will not just snap back to “normal.” Instead, he represents the farcical culmination of a lot of dying old orders — demographic, political, even moral — and what comes after will be a reaction against rather than a continuing from.

For example, let’s look at our moral culture. For most of American history mainline Protestants — the Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians and so on — set the dominant cultural tone. Most of the big social movements, like abolitionism, the suffragist movement and the civil rights movement, came out of the mainline churches.

As Joseph Bottum wrote in “An Anxious Age,” mainline Protestants created a kind of unifying culture that bound people of different political views. You could be Catholic, Jewish, Muslim or atheist, but still you were influenced by certain mainline ideas — the Protestant work ethic, the WASP definition of a gentleman. Leaders from Theodore Roosevelt to Barack Obama hewed to a similar mainline standard for what is decent in public life and what is beyond the pale.

Over the last several decades mainline Protestantism has withered. The country became more diverse. The WASPs lost their perch atop society. The mainline denominations lost their vitality.

For a time, we lived off the moral capital of the past. But the election of Trump shows just how desiccated the mainline code has become. A nation guided by that ethic would not have elected a guy who is a daily affront to it, a guy who nakedly loves money, who boasts, who objectifies women, who is incapable of hypocrisy because he acknowledges no standard of propriety other than that which he feels like doing at any given moment.

Donald Trump has smashed through the behavior standards that once governed public life. His election demonstrates that as the unifying glue of the mainline culture receded, the country divided into at least three blocks: white evangelical Protestantism that at least in its public face seems to care more about eros than caritas; secular progressivism that is spiritually formed by feminism, environmentalism and the quest for individual rights; and realist nationalism that gets its manners from reality TV and its spiritual succor from in-group/out-group solidarity.

If Trump falls in disgrace or defeat, and people’s partisan pride is no longer at stake, I hope that even his supporters will have enough moral memory to acknowledge that character really does matter. A guy can promise change, but if he is dishonest, disloyal and selfish, the change he delivers is not going to be effective or good.

But where are people going to go for a new standard of decency? They’re not going to go back to the old WASP ideal. That’s dead. Trump revealed the vacuum, but who is going to fill it and with what?

I could describe a similar vacuum when it comes to domestic policy thinking, to American identity, to America’s role in the world. Trump exposes the void but doesn’t fill it. That’s why the reaction against Trump is now more important than the man himself.

One way or another I’m gonna wash that man right outta what’s left of my hair.

450 scientists present stunning rebuke of Trump’s climate science denial


450 scientists present stunning rebuke of Trump’s climate science denial

NOAA-led report tells the truth about the science behind the warmest year on record

Joe Romm        August 10, 2017 average CO2 each month since 1980. CREDIT: NOAA.

A massive new report by more than 450 scientists, confirms that the Earth warmed to a new record in 2016, driven by a record increase in carbon dioxide levels.

The 27th annual “State of the Climate” report, led by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), stands as the first comprehensive rebuke by the nation’s and world’s climate scientists to the presidency of Donald Trump. Trump has repeatedly called climate change a “hoax” and reaffirmed last week that he intends to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, which remains the best hope for America and the world to avert catastrophic impacts.

“Surface temperature and carbon dioxide concentration, two of the more publicly recognized indicators of global-scale climate change, set new highs during 2016,” the report explains, “as did several surface and near-surface indicators and essential climate variables.”

NOAA’s news release explains that 2016 set several major new climate records — all of which topped records previously set the year before:

  • Greenhouse gases were the highest on record.
  • Global surface temperature was the highest on record.
  • Average sea surface temperature was the highest on record.
  • Global sea level was the highest on record.

There were other records, too. For instance, 2016 saw record Arctic land temperatures, record temperatures for lakes around the world, record levels of serious drought globally, and “a record low value” for the “mass of the Greenland Ice Sheet, which has the capacity to contribute ~7 m [23 feet] to sea level rise.”

The report leaves no doubt as to the cause of the warming temperatures and other indicators of climate change: human-caused carbon pollution. Indeed, the report opens by explaining that “the dominant greenhouse gases released into Earth’s atmosphere — carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide — all continued to increase and reach new record high abundances.”

In particular, “the 3.5 ± 0.1 ppm [parts per million] rise in global annual mean carbon dioxide from 2015 to 2016 was the largest annual increase ever observed in the 58-year measurement record.” This remarkable surge brought global CO2 levels to their new record level, 402.9 ppm, “surpassing 400 ppm for the first time in the modern atmospheric measurement record and in ice core records dating back as far as 800,000 years.”

The Earth just reached a CO2 level not seen in 3 million years

Levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide hit record concentrations.

While none of this will come as a surprise to anyone who follows either the news or climate science, all of these findings undercut the statements and actions made by President Donald Trump and the climate science deniers with whom he has surrounded himself.

Significantly, the report underscores a crucial reason why climate inaction is so dangerous: The rate of warming is  accelerating. The authors explain that “the global sea surface temperature trend for the 21st century to-date of +0.162°C decade is much higher than the longer term 1950–2016 trend of +0.100°C decade.” And it is roughly double the trend of  surface temperature warning since 1901.

Not only is warming speeding up, but it is happening even faster up North. “Arctic air temperatures continue to increase at double the rate of the global temperature increase, and this increase can be linked directly to changes in the Arctic environmental system,” the report found. According to the researchers, “the average Arctic land surface temperature was 3.6°F (2.0°C) above the 1981–2010 average, breaking the previous record of 2007, 2011, and 2015 by 1.4°F (0.8°C), representing a 6.3°F (3.5°C) increase since records began in 1900.”

To repeat, the Arctic is already a full 6.3°F warmer than it was in 1900. So we should all take serious the projection from the final draft of the National Climate Assessment we’ve been reporting on this week, which warns that continued inaction could lead to upwards of 18°F warming by century’s end.

Rapid Arctic ice melt sets the stage for economic disaster under Trump

The great ice sheets are unstable, ice melt is speeding up, and deniers will soon be in charge. What could go wrong?

Warming in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. It drives Arctic sea ice loss and extreme weather here in America as well as disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet and the carbon-rich permafrost.

Similarly, climate-destroying policies made in Washington do not stay in Washington. They threaten all Americans and all homo sapiens now and for centuries to come.

The unvarnished truth about climate change

Tampa Bay Times

Editorial: The unvarnished truth about climate change

Tampa Bay Times Editorial      August 9, 2017

Crews battle a wildfire near Mariposa, Calif., on July 18. Officials say the record rain and snowfall that ended California’s five-year drought has turned into a challenge for firefighters battling flames feeding on dense vegetation.Associated Press

Crews battle a wildfire near Mariposa, Calif., on July 18. Officials say the record rain and snowfall that ended California’s five-year drought has turned into a challenge for firefighters battling flames feeding on dense vegetation.

The latest federal report on the Earth’s warming climate doesn’t mince words about the disturbing trends, man’s contributions or the dangers that millions across the globe already face, especially in low-lying coastal areas in Florida and elsewhere. It is yet another call to action for federal, state and local officials — and they all have a role to play in curbing emissions of heat-trapping gases, shoring up infrastructure, improving flood control and finding more efficient ways for societies to grow and manage their populations.

Drafted by scientists at 13 federal agencies, the report cited the warming trend as “global, long term and unambiguous.” Global temperatures have increased by about 1.6 degrees over the past 150 years, the study found, and thousands of studies have created “many lines of evidence” to conclude that human activity is primarily behind the changing climate. The authors found it “extremely likely” that most of the warming since 1951 was caused by humans, and that even if emissions were to cease, existing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would cause temperatures to increase at least a half-degree Fahrenheit over this century.

The report, by 30 lead authors representing agencies such as NASA, federal laboratories, the private sector and universities, is part of the National Climate Assessment. That is a congressionally mandated analysis that seeks to build on the existing science and provide a snapshot of the current state of climate change. It found an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather, and warming in the Arctic at twice the rate of the global average — a phenomenon that could impact sea levels, the weather and other patterns in the lower 48 states. One-third of the sea level rise since 1880 has occurred since 1990, and coastal communities from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic are at increasing risk of routine flooding, saltwater intrusion into the drinking water supply and the collapse of roads, utilities and other vital infrastructure. That puts Florida’s east and west coastlines at risk, yet Gov. Rick Scott’s administration has been less aggressive than local governments in South Florida and Tampa Bay in addressing the challenges.

The findings contradict the talking points of the Trump administration, which has openly questioned the science behind climate change and the degree that humans contribute to it, and which has moved to reverse the clean-air initiatives of the Obama White House. The unpublished analysis was made available to the New York Times days before Sunday’s deadline for the 13 federal agencies to approve the report. Making the report public at least forces the Trump administration to explain why it does or does not stand behind the science.

This national assessment lays a foundation for securing federal funding and regulatory direction on climate policy, and it offers state and local governments the technical assistance they need to incorporate the impact of climate change into their planning for infrastructure, land use and other long-term issues. States and cities, though, cannot cede all responsibility to the federal government. Studies show Florida, for example, has invested trillions of dollars in infrastructure with virtually no consideration given to rising sea levels. Rising seas could swell Tampa Bay up to 19 inches over the next quarter-century, putting tens of thousands of residents at risk. The federal study is another wake-up call about a threat that is real, here and more pressing by the day.

Betty Shelby’s New Job Is Why Cops Won’t Stop Killing Black People

The Root

Betty Shelby’s New Job Is Why Cops Won’t Stop Killing Black People

        Michael Harriot    August 10, 2017

@PJonesFOX23 via Twitter

Sometimes, being black is like living inside a terrible movie where the world is so racist that it’s damn near impossible to believe. For example, imagine being a movie producer and I came to you to pitch this idea:

OK, there’s a woman cop named Betty Shelby. One day, while on duty, Shelby kills an unarmed black man named Terence Crutcher while he is walking away from her with his hands in the air. It is caught on two different cameras.

In the second act, our antagonist goes on a news show like … oh, let’s say 60 Minutes. She damn near admits to the crime. She tells the interviewer, “If I wait to find out if he had a gun or not, I could very well be dead. … There’s something that we [police] always say: ‘I’d rather be tried by 12 than carried by six.’” Then her lawyers float the idea that Crutcher was a criminal, calling him a “certified gang member.”

The trial happens at the beginning of the third act, and even with video evidence, even with her statements, even though her only defense is that she thought Crutcher might have been reaching for a weapon that didn’t exist through a window that was closed—she gets acquitted! The police department tells her she can keep working in a cushy desk job, but she says, “Naaah, I’m good. I want a job where I can be on the street to possibly kill more unarmed black men,” so she resigns. Then, in the last scene, she walks into the sunset … no, even better, she gets a job as a sheriff’s officer, with a gun and everything. She lives happily ever after. Orchestra music plays. Fade to black. Credits roll.

You’d kick me out of your office. You’d tell me it was too “on the nose” and didn’t have enough nuance. “Sure, the world is racist,” you’d say. “But not that racist.” You’d think no one would go see that movie. “It’s too unbelievable,” you’d say.

Betty Shelby, the Tulsa, Okla., Cop Who Killed Terence Crutcher, Allowed to Return to Active Duty

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The Tulsa, Okla., police officer who shot and killed Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black motorist,…

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Betty Shelby, the former Tulsa, Okla., police officer acquitted of killing Terence Crutcher in cold blood—even though there are two videos that show her killing Crutcher in cold blood—has a brand-new job as a reserve deputy with the Rogers County (Okla.) Sheriff’s Office, according to several sources, including the Tulsa World.

Shelby was sworn in by the RCSO during a live press conference Thursday morning surrounded by Sheriff Scott Walton, county officials and well-wishers. The county doesn’t usually hold press conferences for swearing-in ceremonies, but because of the high profile of Shelby’s case and Walton’s vociferous support of her during her trial, Rogers County apparently thought it necessary to flaunt the fact that it was hiring a cold-blooded killer, because … fuck Terence Crutcher.

Betty Shelby Sworn In As Rogers County Sheriff’s Reserve Deputy

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Former Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby was sworn in Thursday, August 10, 2017, as a reserve…

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During Shelby’s terrible ordeal, in which she had to endure months of freedom, getting paid without actually working and not being dead, Walton posted at least three letters on the RCSO Facebook page offering support and slamming Shelby’s critics, calling her a “sacrificial lamb.”

This is why Crutcher is dead. This is why Mike Brown is dead. This is why Tamir Rice is dead. This is why John Crawford is dead. It is not just because of the juries who acquit the thieves who rob the world of black lives. It is not simply because of the apathy of men and women in blue uniforms toward the black citizens they are sworn to protect and serve. It is because they know they will never suffer any repercussions for cold-blooded murder under the authority of the law.

Not only are they never punished; they also prosper. And they prosper so that they can do it again.

Take Timothy Loehmann, for instance. Loehmann worked as a police officer in Independence, Ohio. His supervisor there recommended his termination for lying, insubordination and being unable to perform his duties. Instead of being fired for being a terrible police officer, he was allowed to resign so that he could get another job as a cop, paving the way for him to shoot 12-year-old Tamir Rice as the youngster played in a Cleveland park in 2014. Even though Loehmann shot Tamir two seconds after he spotted the kid playing in a park, Loehmann never faced charges and kept working for the Cleveland Police Department until May 30, 2017.

New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo had been accused of police violations and had been sued three times for falsely arresting black men before he stopped Eric Garner from breathing.

Leaked Documents Reveal How the NYPD Ignored Abusive History of the Cop Who Killed Eric Garner

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On July 17, 2014, New York City Police Department Officer Daniel Pantaleo grabbed Eric Garner,…

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The police officers in Jennings, Mo., were so notoriously racist, the department eventually had to fire every officer on the force and bring in new officers. Most of the officers kept working. One of those officers—Darren Wilson—landed a better-paying job in Ferguson, Mo., and patrolled the streets there until he shot Mike Brown six times on Aug. 9, 2014.

“But she was acquitted,” some people will say of Betty Shelby. “In America, you are innocent until proven guilty. You can’t persecute her if she isn’t guilty of a crime.”

“Really?” said the long-dead corpses of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Mike Brown and Terence Crutcher.

Editor’s note: Tamir, Garner, Brown and Crutcher didn’t actually say that because … you know.

Read more at the Tulsa World and News 9.

Michael Harriot is a staff writer at The Root, host of “The Black One” podcast and editor-in-chief of the daily digital magazine NegusWhoRead.

These Electric Tuk Tuks Are Taking on Uber

There's a buzz around Stockholm. Read more:

Posted by EcoWatch on Thursday, August 10, 2017

America’s wind energy industry passed a major milestone


America’s wind energy industry passed a major milestone

Economic challenges facing wind energy are nothing new, industry says.

Mark Hand         August 9, 2017 Dry Lake Wind Power Project in Arizona. CREDIT: Department of Energy

The wind energy industry reached an important milestone in 2016 when it passed the generating capacity of hydroelectric power for the first time to become the nation’s top renewable generating source. Wind energy’s growth — at least in the next few years — is showing few signs of slowing down, with 142,000 megawatts of new and proposed wind capacity lined up to connect to the nation’s electric power grid, according to new data released by the Department of Energy.

The total amount of wind capacity in the queue represents 34 percent of all generating capacity waiting to connect to the grid, higher than all other generating sources, DOE said. The wind energy industry added more than 8,200 megawatts of capacity in 2016, representing 27 percent of all energy capacity additions for that year.

That annual growth lifted the nation’s wind capacity to 81,312 megawatts at the end of December 2016, slightly above hydroelectric’s 79,985 megawatts of capacity, according to DOE. Wind supplied about 6 percent of U.S. electricity, and 14 states now get more than 10 percent of their electricity from wind.

DOE released three wind market reports on Tuesday, covering wind technology, offshore wind, and distributed wind. The primary authors of the wind technology report were employees at DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The offshore wind report was prepared by employees at DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Employees at DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory prepared the distributed wind report.

“The wind industry continues to install significant amounts of new capacity, and supplied about 6 percent of total U.S. electricity in 2016,” Daniel Simmons, DOE acting assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy, said in a statement. “As our reports explain, a combination of federal subsidies, state mandates, and technological advancements continue to help drive new wind capacity additions.”

Prior to joining DOE, Simmons worked at the Koch-funded Institute for Energy Research as vice president for policy and also held a top position at the Koch-funded American Energy Alliance, which advocated for the office he now oversees at DOE — the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy — to be eliminated.

Wind turbine prices remained well below levels seen a decade ago, DOE said. After hitting a low of roughly $800 per kilowatt from 2000 to 2002, average turbine prices increased to roughly $1,600 per kilowatt by the end of 2008. Over the past decade, though, wind turbine prices have dropped substantially.

Technological innovations are helping wind turbines optimize their performance by reaching stronger, steadier winds, according to the American Wind Energy Association, the primary trade association for the wind power industry. Longer blades have helped to boost new wind turbine performance, with wind projects built in 2014 and 2015 reporting a 42.5 percent average capacity factor in 2016, compared to a 32.1 percent capacity factor for projects built between 2004 and 2011, AWEA said in press release Wednesday.

In the offshore report, DOE noted that more than 20 offshore wind projects totaling 24,135 megawatts of potential installed capacity are in the works. The report highlighted that last December, Deepwater Wind completed the commissioning of the Block Island Wind Farm, marking a milestone as the first commercial offshore wind project in the United States.

The first major offshore wind project in the U.S. is now powering an island

Renewable energy continues its march forward. 

From 2003 through 2016, a total of 992 megawatts in capacity from more than 77,000 wind turbines was deployed in distributed applications across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam, DOE said.

DOE said its recent and projected near-term growth in wind energy is supported by the federal production tax credit and state-level policies. Wind additions have also been driven by improvements in the cost and performance of wind power technologies, producing low power prices for consumers.

The prospects for wind energy growth beyond the current PTC cycle remain uncertain, given declining federal tax support, expectations for low natural gas prices, and modest electricity demand growth, DOE said. At the end of 2015, Congress agreed to extend the production tax credit. Since then, wind developers have been building projects before the tax credit expires completely in 2020.

The DOE report lists many positive factors, including the potential for continued technological advancements and cost reductions to enhance the prospects for longer-term growth, Hannah Hunt, a research analyst at AWEA, said in a blog post on Tuesday.

“Some have focused on the report’s discussion of potential economic challenges for the industry, including competition from natural gas and solar,” Hunt wrote. “However, it should be noted that those challenges are nothing new and have in fact been listed in every version of the report this decade. Thanks to the innovation and productivity of American workers, the wind industry has been able overcome those challenges by greatly exceeding cost reduction expectations, and we expect that successful track record to continue.”

Interactive Map Shows Every Wind Farm in America


Interactive Map Shows Every Wind Farm in America

By American Wind Energy Association      August 10, 2017

Using a new map tool released Thursday, anyone can now easily view the location of every utility-scale wind project and wind-related manufacturing facility in the U.S. With the very first American Wind Week in full swing, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released the map to help people visualize the growth of America’s largest source of renewable energy capacity.

“Wind Power has become a vital part of the U.S. economy, drawing billions of dollars in capital investment to rural communities each year and supporting over 100,000 U.S. jobs across all 50 states,” said John Hensley, deputy director of industry data and analysis for AWEA. “I’m pleased this new map tool helps Americans visualize how world-class U.S. wind resources are being put to work in all parts of the county.”

A time-lapse feature built into the map shows the progress of wind power development across the country. Starting from 1981 in the passes of California where the first modern wind energy projects were completed, users can see the story of American wind power unfold across heartland states like Texas, Iowa, Oklahoma and Kansas, and eventually to the first U.S. offshore wind project completed off Rhode Island in 2016.

The map also features markers for the more than 500 wind-related manufacturing facilities in the U.S. today. These factories support 25,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs across 41 states.

AWEA’s new map utilizes only a small percentage of the full wind project and manufacturing data available to AWEA members through Market Database Pro, a comprehensive, interactive database of all online, under construction and advanced development wind projects, and all active wind-related manufacturing facilities. More than 50 data points are provided at both the project and turbine level, with advanced interactive mapping services including filtered search capabilities, summary maps and political boundaries.

This week is the inaugural #AmericanWindWeek, dedicated to U.S. leadership in wind power. Wind is the largest source of American renewable energy capacity, supporting more than 100,000 U.S. jobs across all 50 states, with nearly 85,000 MW of installed capacity at the end of the second quarter of 2017.

Polluter fines drop 60 percent under Trump

Washington Post, Energy and Environment

Polluter fines drop 60 percent under Trump

By Steven Mufson        August 10, 2017

The Trump administration has so far collected $12 million in environmental-related penalties from businesses, according to a nonprofit.  Above, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks during an interview for Reuters at his office in July. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

The Trump administration has collected 60 percent less from civil penalties for environmental wrongdoing than the administrations of presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton did on average in their first six months in office.

That’s according to an analysis by the Environmental Integrity Project, a nonprofit group founded 15 years ago by former enforcement attorneys at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The administration has lodged 26 cases for violations of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and other environmental laws (not including Superfund sites) and it collected $12 million in penalties from companies, the group said.  Clinton, Bush and Obama respectively lodged 45, 31, and 34 cases and collected $25 million, $30 million and $36 million in penalties.

Related: White House reviewing new report that finds strong link between climate change and human activity

The Environmental Integrity Project said that the figures showed that the Trump administration is “off to a very slow start” when it comes to enforcing environmental law. It said that the cases this year “are smaller, requiring much less spending on cleanup, and resulting in fewer measurable reductions in pollutants that end up in our air or water.”

The Trump administration also lags behind the three previous presidential administrations in the amount of injunctive relief and the amount of air pollution reductions.

At the same time, the group warned that a six-month period does not provide enough data for definitive conclusions, and cases and settlements are often the result of years of efforts. For example, the largest civil penalty imposed by the Obama administration in its first six months was a $12 million fine imposed on BP, whose large Texas City refinery suffered fires and explosions that killed 15 people and injured more than 170 others in 2005.

The largest civil penalty imposed so far by the Trump administration came on May 17, when the EPA and the state of Texas imposed a $2.5 million penalty on the owner of Vopak Terminals North America Inc. for air pollution violations at its terminal along the Houston Ship Channel, the EIP said. The Dutch company’s terminal stores biofuels, chemicals, petroleum products, base oils and lubricants, consisting of 243 tanks with a collective capacity of over 7 million barrels, the EPA said on its website.

It added that Vopak’s violations were detected in 2012, 2014 and 2015 involving open tanks, leaking tanks and inefficient flares that contributed to releases of volatile organic compounds.

Related: At EPA museum, history might be in for a change

“The company’s Deer Park facility failed to comply with Clean Air Act requirements to properly manage equipment, which resulted in excess emissions of benzene (a carcinogen) and volatile organic compounds,” the EIP said. “These compounds contribute to smog and causes asthma attacks and eye, nose and throat irritation, as well as headaches, nausea and damage to liver, kidney and the central nervous system.”

The biggest penalty imposed during the first six months of George W. Bush’s administration was a $9.5 million fine on oil refiners Motiva, Equilon and Shell.  The Clinton administration imposed a $11.1 million fine on Louisiana Pacific and Kirby Forest Industries for air pollution violations at wood product plants.

The EIP relied on consent decrees, news releases by the Justice Department and the Federal Register to compile its figures.

Read more:

Will proposed cuts undermine Trump’s vision of ‘energy dominance?’

Is the most powerful lobbyist in Washington losing its grip?

Steven Mufson covers energy and other financial matters. Since joining The Post, he has covered the White House, China, economic policy and diplomacy.