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Member since: Fri Dec 19, 2003, 02:20 AM
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Glare of Video Is Shifting Public’s View of Police

Glare of Video Is Shifting Public’s View of Police

They began as workaday interactions between the police and the public, often involving minor traffic stops in places like Cincinnati; North Charleston, S.C.; and Waller County, Tex. But they swiftly escalated into violent encounters. And all were captured on video.

Those videos, all involving white officers and black civilians, have become ingrained in the nation’s consciousness — to many people, as evidence of bad police conduct. And while they represent just a tiny fraction of police behavior — those that show respectful, peaceful interactions do not make the 24-hour cable news — they have begun to alter public views of police use of force and race relations, experts and police officials say.

Videos have provided “corroboration of what African-Americans have been saying for years,” said Paul Butler, a professor at Georgetown University Law School and a former prosecutor, who called them “the C-Span of the streets.” On Thursday, the family of Samuel DuBose, an unarmed black man who was shot to death by a University of Cincinnati police officer on July 19, said the officer would never have been prosecuted if his actions had not been captured by the body camera the officer was wearing.

Ray Tensing was fired as a University of Cincinnati police officer and charged, while two others were placed on leave after video contradicted their account of an encounter with a black man. Credit John Minchillo/Associated Press

To the police, that poses a new challenge in trying to regain public confidence. “Every time I think maybe we’re past this and we can start rebuilding, it seems another incident occurs that inflames public outrage,” said James Pasco, the executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police. “Police officers literally have millions of contacts with citizens every day, and in the vast majority of those interactions, there is no claim of wrongdoing, but that’s not news.”

Some polling bolsters such concerns....

Oooops. Who eats the $7.5B loss on California nuclear plant?

U.S. nuke plant operator files $7.57 billion case against MHI
July 29, 2015

A U.S. nuclear plant operator has demanded that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. pay $7.57 billion (930 billion yen) in compensation for the failure of a steam generator that resulted in the decommissioning of reactors, The Asahi Shimbun learned.

Southern California Edison Co. (SCE), operator of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in San Diego County, asked the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce’s International Court of Arbitration on July 27 to mediate a settlement with MHI.

MHI described SCE’s demand as “unreasonable” and its claim as “gratuitous” on the grounds that the ceiling of compensation is set at $137 million in their contract. The company said it will contest that point in court.

The San Onofre nuclear plant suspended operations after water leaks were detected in steam generator pipes that were manufactured by MHI in January 2012. Pipes of another steam generator under regular maintenance were also found to be worn.

SCE had to decommission the reactors...

Former Exelon CEO says Exelon should shut those reactors

Extended excerpt by permission

Former Exelon CEO says Exelon should shut those reactors

Former Exelon CEO John Rowe says things current Exelon executives would rather not hear.
Current Exelon executives put their fingers in their ears when former Exelon CEO John Rowe (above) speaks.

Exelon executives must feel like former Exelon CEO John Rowe is kind of like the crazy uncle who has to be invited to the party even though whenever he opens his mouth to speak the entire room will cringe.

The problem for Exelon is that Rowe isn’t crazy, and he has been speaking out a lot, especially in the past week.

Last Friday, we linked to one interview he gave recently where he said he would have been quicker to close Exelon’s uneconomic reactors than the current Exelon regime–which still hasn’t closed them and is still floundering around trying to get someone, anyone, to order ratepayers to bail them out. So far, unsuccessfully.

Yesterday, E&E Publishing ran another interview with Rowe, which expands on his thoughts and surely caused unpleasant abdominal pains and teeth-gnashing in Exelon’s executive suite and boardroom. You see, Rowe is one of those retired execs whose stature has only grown since he left the company and his thoughts carry weight, especially in Illinois. And he’s still got some clout, perhaps more than Exelon itself these days: for example, he’s actually friends with Chicago Mayor and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, unlike the current Exelon suits.

So here’s what Rowe said about Exelon’s uneconomic reactors:

I’m living in a fairy world because I don’t have the numbers and I’m not responsible for them anymore. But in my opinion, you shut those three plants down. You say they have become uneconomic just like some old coal plants are uneconomic. And in a world that’s driven by unfriendly market prices and unfriendly public policy, you shut them down.

He went on to say that his former colleagues at Exelon “have to figure this out for themselves,” adding:

I love nuclear power plants. For [current Exelon CEO] Chris Crane, it’s his life. He would probably go further to keep a plant running than I would go. I don’t believe there’s anything divine about markets, but I believe they’re pretty important….

In some ways, I believe the only way a utility has credibility in saying that something isn’t making any money is if it’s actually willing to shut it down. If I were there, I think I’d have shut the New Jersey plant [Oyster Creek] down first. It’s the oldest, it’s the smallest, and it would have given credibility to what Exelon is saying about the other four. Nuclear power plants have been shut down before around the country.

As for the idea that EPA’s Clean Power Plan should encourage nuclear power:

…I don’t think it’s EPA’s job to encourage a new nuclear world. I think that would be one of the most expensive solutions it could pursue.

Now, before you get the idea that Rowe has become some kind of green or anti-nuclear crusader...

Nuclear a 'technology of the past'

I perceive that a lot of nuclear supporters are enamored with Russia. They might want to cast a more critical eye on the reality of Russia's situation.

Nuclear a 'technology of the past'
A Russian nuclear activist has labelled South Africa's pursuit of new nuclear capacity – with Russian support – as "naive" and advised against it.

27 JUL 2015 20:26

“Nuclear is not technology of the future. This is technology of the past, of the Cold War.” This is the conclusion Vladimir Slivyak, of the Russian environmental group Ecodefense, reaches when talking about nuclear technology.


In the six decades where nuclear has been used to create energy, he says there have been numerous incidents. Chernobyl was the only one that caused waves because it affected so many other countries that it could not be hidden – 60% of the radioactive dust released landed outside territories belonging to the Soviet Union. Even now there are forests in Germany where people cannot hunt animals because of their contamination, he says.

The state nuclear regulator – Rostekhnadzor – said last year that 39 incidents had occurred in 2013. The main reasons were “mismanagement, defects in equipment and design errors”. The country’s fleet of 34 reactors has had much of its life extended by 15 years, despite being built to operate for about 30 years.

...Russia itself has stopped investing heavily in nuclear power for its own economy...
...in the coming decade nuclear will only make up about 3% of the total energy mix, Slivyak says. This is because plants will retire without new ones being built.

...Steve Thomas, a professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich, said, “It was always extremely doubtful whether Russia could provide the finance for all the nuclear power projects it claimed to be close to winning well before the oil price collapse.”

With the number of nuclear plants decreasing each year – there are now 388 in operation around the world – the energy source now accounts for around 4% of the global energy mix. According to the International Energy Agency three-quarters of these will be reaching the end of their operational life in the next decade.


Much more at:http://mg.co.za/article/2015-07-27-nuclear-too-old-too-complicated-too-uneconomic

“Something Dreadful Happened in the Past”: War Stories for Children in Japanese Popular Culture

“Something Dreadful Happened in the Past”: War Stories for Children in Japanese Popular Culture

The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue. 30, No. 1, July 27, 2015

Akiko Hashimoto

Reflecting on the 70th anniversary of the end of Japan's War, it is worth noting that teaching the history of World War II to Japanese children has always been difficult at best. As a subject fraught with contentions over textbook content and conflict between teachers and state bureaucracy, teaching war history has long been “a dreaded subject” for many school teachers. Japanese history education has been criticized for not going far and deeply enough to describe perpetrator history – especially the injury and death inflicted on tens of millions of Asian victims. At the same time, it has been admonished for the opposite: that it goes too far in promoting Japan's negative self-identity. This contest to shape hearts and minds of future citizens has long burdened Japan's history education in schools, and has yielded mixed results.

Flawed as the school instruction of war history is in many respects, however, what is easily overlooked in the focus on the shortcomings of formal history education is the significant impact of informal education about the Asia-Pacific War. What can deeply influence the hearts and minds of the next generation – perhaps more than textbooks – is the power of popular war stories accessible to children in the commercial media and libraries. This “pop” war history is readily available in children’s everyday life, mostly unmediated by teachers and unfiltered by state authorities.

War stories for children in Japan's popular culture have been influential carriers of war memory for many decades. Famous stories created by celebrated manga and anime artists like Barefoot Gen, Grave of the Fireflies, and To All Corners of the World have successfully exposed young readers to the destructive aspects of the Asia-Pacific War and influenced them to feel the horror of death. Others like Mother’s Trees, Glass Rabbit, and Poor Elephants have been equally successful in shaping young children’s antipathy toward lethal violence, exposing them to the sheer meaninglessness and horror of mass death. The cumulative effect of these cultural materials – produced, reproduced, and revised over many years in multiple editions and in diverse media – is to nurture negative emotions about the Asia-Pacific War and war in general that have become powerful motivators of moral conduct. The discussion that follows draws from my book, The Long Defeat: Cultural Trauma, Memory, and Identity in Japan, where the topic of children’s education about the war appears in the larger context of Japan's collective memory of colonialism and war, the national fall, and its pathways toward moral recovery.

Collections of Study Manga: History from Below
In a country where the popular cultural media are ubiquitous, it is not surprising that material on Japanese history is abundant in the commercial media. In Japan 40% of all books and magazines are manga (comic art) publications. It stands to reason that manga has been a popular vehicle for supplemental instruction and education. Indeed, this genre called “study manga,” or “education manga” (gakushū manga), is found readily in school libraries, local public libraries and bookstores. As informal tools of cultural learning they are on a par with television and animation films in how they bring cognitive comprehension to children, influencing their perceptions as memory carriers of the next generation. They are entirely distinct from young boys’ entertainment comics, not discussed in this essay, that valorize heroic fighters, fictive or otherwise, in throwaway paper format. Of the public media that transmit and translate war memory – from newspapers, magazines, books, and novels to television documentaries and films – study manga merit special attention as a vehicle that exclusively targets children at a formative age, when their ethical judgment and moral dispositions are formed.1

The moral evaluation of war and peace in pop history study manga comes into clear focus ...


There’s a trend here.

Extended excerpt used with permission

"... the trend away from nuclear power and fossil fuels and toward clean energy is only accelerating, all across the world."

There’s a trend here.

This trend is clear: Solar and wind are already cheaper than coal and will become more so; and will beat out natural gas as well. Nuclear is so expensive it’s off the chart. Chart from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Every day I take an hour or two to scan dozens of articles from across the globe on nuclear power and clean energy issues; I select a handful of the best to post on NIRS’ Twitter and Facebook feeds as well as the COP 21 organizing page on Facebook, along with some Twitter-enforced pithy commentary.

Today I found myself using the word “trend” twice in a half-dozen post comments. Accurately.

Because the trend away from nuclear power and fossil fuels and toward clean energy is only accelerating, all across the world. Given how low we began, with clean energy even a few years ago providing only a microscopic amount of our electricity supply, rapid and accelerating growth is absolutely necessary. But the pace of the growth still is stunning. The dinosaurs’ day is coming, and the trend shows that it’s coming sooner than expected.

A few examples:

*The upcoming release of the annual and invaluable World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2015 indicates that 45% of the world’s people live in countries that now generate more electricity from non-hydro renewables than from their nuclear power. These include four of the world’s five largest economies: China, India, Japan and Germany, along with Brazil, Mexico, Spain and the Netherlands.

When hydro is included, the United Kingdom can be added to the list. The outlier on the list is obvious: the U.S. Although at least the U.S. is growing too, from 8.5 percent renewable (including hydro) in 2007 to 13 percent in 2014. All of that growth comes from non-hydro renewables.

Note that these statistics are not based on capacity (all of these nations have far more nameplate capacity of renewables than nuclear) but on actual generation, where until recently nuclear has been the leader.

*In a story titled The Latest Sign that Coal is Getting Killed, Bloomberg reported Monday that coal companies are finding it increasingly difficult to find needed financing from Wall Street; investors believe–with good reason–that coal is on the way out and they don’t want to risk their good money on it. That they are backing off financing for coal-related projects will only hasten the industry’s demise.

Bloomberg’s clients aren’t motivated by the environment, they’re motivated by profit. And they see solar and wind power–as the chart at the top of the page indicates–as already being more cost-effective than coal and becoming only more so. Nuclear, which is even more expensive than coal, doesn’t even enter the equation....


Nuclear hype goes POOF - can't build modular on-time or on-budget either

Prefab Nuclear Plants Prove Just as Expensive
Modular method has run into costly delays and concerns about who will bear the brunt of the expense

Updated July 27, 2015

Building nuclear reactors out of factory-produced modules was supposed to make their construction swifter and cheaper, leading to a new boom in nuclear energy.

But two U.S. sites where nuclear reactors are under construction have been hit with costly delays that have shaken faith in the new construction method and created problems concerning who will bear the added expense.


The new building technique calls for fabricating big sections of plants in factories and then hauling them by rail to power-plant sites for final assembly. The method was supposed to prevent a repeat of the notorious delays and cost overruns that marred the last nuclear construction cycle in the 1980s.

It hasn’t worked. Georgia Power Co., a unit of Southern Co. that is building one of the nuclear power plants, reports that construction is three years behind schedule, although it is making steady progress.


The Georgia plant’s delay will increase the project’s financing costs, potentially adding $319 annually to each residential bill, according to the public interest advocacy staff of the state utility commission. The utility is seeking to recover $778 million in total added financing costs from vendors. It hopes customer bills won’t rise more than 8% to pay for the plant....

With the need to recoup all of that money, what do you think the attitude of the utility will be towards revenue lost to energy efficiency efforts and distributed renewable generation?

How Solar Power Is Transforming India’s Energy Market

How Solar Power Is Transforming India’s Energy Market (Part 1)
July 26th, 2015 by Tobias Engelmeier, Bridge To India

There is a solar transformation underway in India: record low tariffs, huge investment interest, and real growth. But stumbling blocks remain.

A year ago, the Indian government announced a goal of 100 GW of solar by 2022. Many market participants (including myself) were skeptical. In the last couple of months, however, the mood has changed. The goal appears to become more attainable by the day. This is partly due to Indian solar policies, partly due to rising overall investor confidence in India, and partly due to the dynamics of global markets — generally, and in terms of energy and solar. However, not all is good. I cover the challenges in Part 2 (coming tomorrow).

First, these are my main reasons for being optimistic:

Real growth on the ground: A key accusation often made against the Indian market in general and India’s solar plans in specific was that it is all words and no implementation. That has now been proven wrong. In the last three years, the Indian market grew by 1 GW per year. This year, India is expected to add as much as 5 GW (1.1 GW already commissioned). Until recently, our estimate was 3 GW, but now revised our projections upwards (see our India Solar Handbook). In 2016, India may add 7–10 GW of solar (the government plans to auction 10 GW this year).

Radical fall in tariffs: The most competitive bid in October 2014 was INR 6.01 kWh or US$ 0.0875 for a 40 MW plant by US-based First Solar. In Madhya Pradesh bids, opened last week, the highest winning bid was INR 5.64/kWh for a 50 MW plant by Indian developer Hero Future Energy and the lowest bid was an incredible INR 5.05/kWh or US$ 0.0795 for a 50 MW plant by Canadian developer SkyPower Solar.

Globally, the current lowest ...

How Solar Power Is Transforming India’s Energy Market (Part II)
July 27th, 2015 by Tobias Engelmeier, Bridge To India

There is great cause for being optimistic about the transformative power of India’s solar market. In the first part of this series, I outlined the drivers that currently propel the market into an entirely new dimension: real growth on the ground, highly competitive tariffs, and enormous investor interest. However, the optimism remains tapered as real challenges remain.

Here are my main concerns:

Margins: It remains difficult to earn money on solar projects in India. There is strong competitive pressure on tariffs and that percolates down through the entire value chain, leaving bare-bone equity returns of around 15% (at a debt cost of 11–13%), if at all. Many of the larger Indian corporates, by comparison, would not enter a business that does not offer an equity return of at least 20%. In many other Indian markets, such margins are attainable. Under Bridge To India’s technical and financial assumptions, for instance, SkyPower’s record low bid of INR 5 or US$0.08 per kWh yields a return of 12%. That seems hardly worth the trouble.

Why is investor interest so high, then? Leaving aside a group of players who are overoptimistic, take undue risk, or lack market information and a (relatively small) group of players who muscle into the market with strategic pricing, there is a widespread assumption that building a portfolio of projects generates value above the returns of individual projects and that there will be attractive ways of refinancing later.

Weak grids, weaker discoms: The Indian electricity grid suffers from high losses (20%+), frequent technical failures, and a lack of monitoring and maintenance. It is quite far from being a “smart grid” (although Indian load dispatch centres are probably more used to managing the grid actively and reacting to volatility than their American or European counterparts). In order to absorb much more infirm renewable power (and in order to deal with India’s future growth in energy demand), the grid has to be bolstered significantly. The trouble is, the utilities are in very bad financial shape. Their cumulative losses are around US$50 billion, with annual losses of around $10 billion. This financial situation makes utilities reluctant grid investors and non-bankable PPA counterparts.

To its credit, the government recognises the problem ...

Climate rule to bring lower energy bills, report says

Climate rule to bring lower energy bills, report says
By Timothy Cama - 07/23/15

States can significantly lower electricity bills for consumers and businesses if they take the right steps in complying with the Obama administration’s climate rule for power plants, a new report concludes.

Specifically, Synapse Energy Economics analyzed what would happen if states focused their efforts on expanding carbon-free energy production and energy efficiency programs, and found big savings.

“For the two-thirds of residential consumers who participate in ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs under this scenario, 2030 bills are expected to be $35 per month lower than in a business-as-usual ... scenario and, on average, $14 per month cheaper than residential bills were in 2012,” Synapse concluded.

Synapse’s findings go further than predictions from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which also forecasts lower energy bills, but only by about $8 per month compared with what would have happened without the climate rule.

And it contrasts with the conclusions of many opponents of the regulation...

Renewable Energy is Killing Nuclear Power No Hope for Nuclear

Renewable Energy is Killing Nuclear Power
No Hope for Nuclear

Written by Jeff Siegel July 22, 2015

I changed my mind...

Over the past few years, I’ve been reluctantly singing the praises of a new nuclear renaissance.

I say reluctantly because I’m not actually a fan of expanding nuclear power. It just seems like a costly and superfluous agenda, as the trifecta of energy efficiency, storage, and renewable energy technologies is simply economically superior to nuclear.

However, I never really had much more than a hunch that this thesis made sense. In other words, I lacked enough data to back my argument...

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