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Member since: Fri Dec 19, 2003, 02:20 AM
Number of posts: 29,798

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How banks are legally stealing homes of poor in Baltimore

Bankers Are Buying Baltimore’s Debt, Charging Families Crazy Interest Rates, Then Taking Their Homes

The death of Freddie Gray in police custody in Baltimore and the ensuing protests brought the nation’s attention to the economic devastation that continues to grip the city. Now, new data shows powerful hedge funds are profiting off of struggling families in Baltimore by buying up debts as small as $250, charging high interest rates, and taking their homes when they fail to pay. A report just released by the research and advocacy group HedgeClippers documents how the Wall Street hedge fund Fortress Investment Group and the Los Angeles-based Imperial Capital bought up hundreds of these small liens this year — on everything from an unpaid water bills to delinquent property taxes — and could take property worth tens of millions of dollars if the families can’t pay.

Once the hedge funds buy up these small debts, they reap an 18 percent interest, according to the Baltimore-based research group The Abell Foundation. More fees pile up after four months, and if the families can’t pay, they lose their homes. An analysis of those impacted in 2014 found the families had been living in their homes an average of 21 years. Half were elderly, more than a third were disabled, and the majority were African American.

State Delegate Cory McCray, a Democrat who grew up in and represents Baltimore, told ThinkProgress he has gotten a handful of phone calls this year from constituents on the cusp of losing their home over an unpaid water bill.
“The city needs a way to recoup its money, but they shouldn’t take someone’s home for that small amount,” he said. “Your house is your wealth that you pass on to the next generation. We have to protect that.”

McCray and other lawmakers recently passed a bill to raise the amount that would trigger a lien from $250 to $500, which he emphasized is still an unfairly low amount over ...

NOLAs’ Greatest Threat Is Climate Change + The ‘Loop Current’ + A Future Katrina

New Orleans’ Greatest Threat Is Climate Change Plus The ‘Loop Current’ Plus A Future Katrina
BY JOE ROMM AUG 27, 2015 10:08AM

Future Katrinas will become more and more devastating to New Orleans and the entire Gulf of Mexico. If we don’t tackle climate change ASAP, it is hard to see how New Orleans could survive the century.

While most stories making this point tend to focus on sea level rise, I’m going to look at the role of the “Loop Current” — and why Hurricane Katrina (and Gustav) weren’t as strong and hence as devastating at landfall as they could have been.

The key point: All things being equal, if a storm taking the same track of Katrina (or Gustav) occurred in 2050, then, rather than weakening before making landfall, it will probably strengthen considerably, creating far more havoc. To understand why, let’s first answer the question — How did Katrina turn into a powerful Category Five hurricane so rapidly?

The National Climatic Data Center 2006 report on Katrina begins its explanation by noting that the sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the Gulf of Mexico during the last week in August 2005 “were one to two degrees Celsius above normal, and the warm temperatures extended to a considerable depth through the upper ocean layer.”

The report continues, “Also, Katrina crossed the ‘loop current‘ (belt of even warmer water), during which time explosive intensification occurred....


Let’s See What Happens When This Group Of Scientists Retests Studies That Contradict Climate Science

Let’s See What Happens When This Group Of Scientists Retests Studies That Contradict Climate Science

The scientific consensus behind man-made global warming is overwhelming: multiple studies have noted a 97 percent consensus among climate scientists that the Earth is warming and human activities are primarily responsible. Scientists are as sure that global warming is real — and driven by human activity — as they are that smoking cigarettes leads to lung cancer.

But what if all of those scientists are wrong? What if the tiny sliver of scientists that don’t believe global warming is happening, or that human activities are causing it — that two to three percent of climate contrarians — are right?

That’s the hypothetical question that a new study, authored by Rasmus Benestad, Dana Nuccitelli, Stephan Lewandowsky, Katharine Hayhoe, Hans Olav Hygen, Rob van Dorland, and John Cook, sought to answer. Published last week in the journal Theoretical and Applied Climatology, the study examined 38 recent examples of contrarian climate research — published research that takes a position on anthropogenic climate change but doesn’t attribute it to human activity — and tried to replicate the results of those studies. The studies weren’t selected randomly — according to lead author Rasmus Benestad, the studies selected were highly visible contrarian studies that had all arrived at a different conclusion than consensus climate studies. The question the researchers wanted to know was — why?

“Our selection suited this purpose as it would be harder to spot flaws in papers following the mainstream ideas. The chance of finding errors among the outliers is higher than from more mainstream papers,” Benestad wrote at RealClimate. “Our hypothesis was that the chosen contrarian paper was valid, and our approach was to try to falsify this hypothesis by repeating the work with a critical eye.”

It didn’t go well for the contrarian studies...

West Point professor calls on US military to target legal critics of war on terror

West Point professor calls on US military to target legal critics of war on terror
US military academy official William Bradford argues that attacks on scholars’ home offices and media outlets – along with Islamic holy sites – are legitimate

Spencer Ackerman Saturday 29 August 2015 08.00 EDT

An assistant professor in the law department of the US Military Academy at West Point has argued that legal scholars critical of the war on terrorism represent a “treasonous” fifth column that should be attacked as enemy combatants.

In a lengthy academic paper, the professor, William C Bradford, proposes to threaten “Islamic holy sites” as part of a war against undifferentiated Islamic radicalism. That war ought to be prosecuted vigorously, he wrote, “even if it means great destruction, innumerable enemy casualties, and civilian collateral damage”.

Other “lawful targets” for the US military in its war on terrorism, Bradford argues, include “law school facilities, scholars’ home offices and media outlets where they give interviews” – all civilian areas, but places where a “causal connection between the content disseminated and Islamist crimes incited” exist.

“Shocking and extreme as this option might seem, [dissenting] scholars, and the law schools that employ them, are – at least in theory – targetable so long as attacks are proportional, distinguish noncombatants from combatants, employ nonprohibited weapons, and contribute to the defeat of Islamism,” Bradford wrote.

West Point is the revered undergraduate institution north of New York City where ...


Wind Power Myths Debunked

A free special issue paper from a group of the world's foremost experts on integrating wind energy into the grid.

Wind Power Myths Debunked

THE RAPID GROWTH OF WIND POWER IN THE UNITED STATES AND worldwide has resulted in increasing media attention to —and public awareness of— wind generation technology. Several misunderstandings and myths have arisen due to the char- acteristics of wind generation, particularly because wind-energy generation only occurs when the wind is blowing. Wind power is therefore not dispatchable like conventional energy sources and delivers a variable level of power depending on the wind speed. Wind is primarily an energy resource and not a capacity resource. Its primary value is to offset fuel consumption and the resulting emissions, including carbon. Only a relatively small fraction of wind energy is typically delivered during peak and high-risk time periods; therefore, wind generators have limited capacity value. This leads to concerns about the impacts of wind power on maintaining reliability and the balance between load and generation.

This article presents answers to commonly asked questions concerning wind power. It begins by addressing the variability of wind and then discusses whether wind has capacity credit. The article addresses whether wind can stop blowing everywhere at once, the uncertainty of predicting wind generation, whether it is expensive to integrate wind power, the need for new transmission, and whether wind generation requires backup generation or dedicated energy storage. Finally, we discuss whether there is sufficient sys- tem flexibility to incorporate wind generation, whether coal is better than wind because coal has greater capacity factors, and whether there is a limit to how much wind power can be incorporated into the grid.

Can Grid Operators Deal with the Continually Changing Output of Wind Generation?

The power system—even before the development of wind- energy technologies—was designed to handle significant variability in loads. Demand varies over timescales that range from seconds to years. System operational procedures are designed around this variability and, based on analysis and operational experience, much is known about how loads vary. Very short-term changes in load (seconds to minutes) are small relative to the system peak and consist primarily of many uncorrelated events that change demand in different directions. Over longer periods (several hours), changes in demand tend to be more correlated, such as during the morning load pickup or evening load falloff.

The output of a wind power plant, or multiple wind power plants, is variable over time. Because the variability of wind is added to this already variable system...


Another corrupt nuclear program. What could go wrong?

Charges sought against ex-head of Brazil nuclear power firm
August 28, 2015

Associated Press
Police say they have asked prosecutors to file charges against the former head of Eletronuclear, the state-owned company that operates Brazil's two nuclear power plants, for his alleged role in a bribery scandal.

SAO PAULO (AP) — Police say they have asked prosecutors to file charges against the former head of Eletronuclear, the state-owned company that operates Brazil's two nuclear power plants, for his alleged role in a bribery scandal.

Brazilian police want prosecutors to charge Othon Luiz Pinheiro da Silva with money laundering and corruption for taking as much as $10 million in bribes from construction companies for contracts involving the construction of the Angra 3 nuclear plant in Rio de Janeiro.

Da Silva was taken into custody in late July and one week later stepped down as Eletronuclear's chief executive officer...

Fukushima today: A first-person account from the field and the conference table

Fukushima today: A first-person account from the field and the conference table

Subrata Ghoshroy
Ghoshroy is a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Program in Science, Technology, and Society....

It has been more than four years since the east coast of Japan was hit with a trifecta: an earthquake of Magnitude 9 on the Richter scale, followed by a massive tsunami triggered by the quake’s tremors, and then the meltdown of three nuclear reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear generating complex. Design mistakes, a poor safety culture, and human error exacerbated the situation. And it all happened within the span of an hour, searing the name “Fukushima” into the collective memory of all. Like Hiroshima a few hundred kilometers to the south, the name Fukushima became synonymous with the horrors that can befall a nation from uncontrolled atomic chain reactions.

I had traveled to Japan to attend a meeting of the Japan Scientists’ Association in Yokohama, near Tokyo, which was expected to announce a major change in its pro-nuclear energy position.

While there, several other conference attendees and I received permission to go on a guided tour to the restricted areas surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi plant to see for ourselves, first-hand, the things that we had all been discussing in conference rooms and lecture halls for the past three days. One of the conference organizers—Yoshimi Miyake, a professor at Akita University—accompanied us on our trip to Fukushima. (To be precise, Fukushima is a prefecture with the namesake city its capital. The plant itself is called Fukushima Daiichi.) Another participant, Lucas Wirl from Germany, volunteered to act as our photographer.

What follows are my personal impressions from the tour that occurred immediately after the meeting, and a few of the relevant highlights from the meeting itself—which called for the elimination of nuclear power from Japan as soon as possible. A total of seven of us traveled about 50 miles, starting from a point some 40 miles south of the power plant, then heading along a series of coastal highways until the road took us to within just a little over a mile and a half from the plant, within the town limits of Futaba—which was about as close as anyone could get to the site without special protective gear. We then continued northeast to the village of Namie, one of the nearest villages to the plant, and a place where the government was aggressively pushing for former inhabitants to return to live year-round.

Along the way, we passed through...

SolarWindows dot com

If you’re thinking about going solar, we’ve got good news: your options have just been expanded. SolarWindow Technologies announced that their new cells can produce 50 times the energy of panels commonly in use today. What that means is a faster return on the investment required for a solar set up. CEO John Conklin called it “the most innovative breakthrough in powering the half-billion square feet of windows installed on commercial buildings in the US, annually.”

Here’s how the windows supposedly work. Glass panels are first treated with a photovoltaic coating made up of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and a few secret ingredients that SolarWindow is keeping under wraps. The “active layer” absorbs light, while the transparent conductors make energy extraction possible. For transparency, the coatings are applied in liquid form at ambient pressures and dried at low temps. The result is clear solar paneling, and the coatings can be added to any conventional glass or plastic.

...They also plan on offering a 25-year warranty to match those offered by conventional solar panels.

...SolarWindows claim that they can use natural, shaded, or even artificial light to produce energy, unlike conventional solar, which means they’re good for use on all four sides of a building instead of just on the roof.

Read more: http://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/solar-window-solar-panel

Follow us: @digitaltrends on Twitter | digitaltrendsftw on Facebook

Liquid electricity...



2min40sec video presentation released on 8/20.

I don't share "the latest" technologies often, but this one sounds more legitimate than most.

We'll see.

Investment Bankers Think Solar and Wind Will Grow Way Faster Than the IEA Forecast

Investment Bankers Think Solar and Wind Will Grow Way Faster Than the IEA Forecast
Citibank’s projections show these deployments will save $1.8 trillion by 2040.

Julia Pyper
August 24, 2015
The aim of stabilizing global temperatures will require enormous investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency in the near term, but these investments are economically feasible and will save society billions in the coming decades, according to a new report from Citigroup.

Under an “Inaction” scenario, Citi analysts assumed that in 2040 the electricity sector would remain weighted toward fossil fuels -- roughly 40 percent coal, 22 percent natural gas and 6 percent renewables. Under an “Action” scenario, the share of fossil fuels would decline from today’s 64 percent to 28 percent. At the same time, power consumption would grow at a slower rate thanks to efficiency measures, while solar and onshore wind grow to 22 percent of the electricity mix.

Renewables play a notably larger role in Citi’s view of a lower carbon future than in the International Energy Agency’s 450 Scenario, which sets out an energy pathway consistent with limiting the global increase in temperature to 2 degrees Celsius.

Analysts at Citibank predict global growth in solar could be at least 65 percent higher on average than what the International Energy Agency predicts through 2020. Citi's solar PV forecast shows an average global installation rate of 53 gigawatts per year between 2013 and 2020. The IEA, by comparison, forecasts an average global installation rate of 33 gigawatts to 34 gigawatts per year over the same period....

The archaic nature of baseload power–or why electricity will become like long-distance

Extended excerpt posted with permission

The archaic nature of baseload power–or why electricity will become like long-distance.

There are no shortage of skeptics out there, even some among environmentalists and clean energy advocates, who are unconvinced that renewable energy can ever be the dominant–perhaps even sole–source of electricity generation.

The reasons for this skepticism vary. Some, for example, argue that the land needs for sufficient generation of wind and solar power are too great. This turns out to be an incredibly lame argument, but that’s the subject of a different article.

More frequent are the arguments that “baseload” power–large power plants that tend to run 24/7–are necessary to ensure reliable electricity and that the variable nature of some renewables–solar and wind–can’t provide that reliability. Then there’s the notion that the electrical grid can only accommodate a certain level of renewables, around 30-40%. Above that and the grid pretty much breaks down. These arguments are actually related and solved in the same way.

More recently, an argument has been circling among energy nerds–especially pro-nuclear energy nerds–that the integration of renewables into the grid reaches a peak for economic reasons: that renewables are limited by their cost. Not by their high cost, but by their low cost, or as one writer put it: solar and wind eat their own lunch. But that merely shows that not only must the technical nature of the grid change, and it can; but so must its economic nature, and it can too.

The electric grid in use today was mostly designed in the 20th century. Large baseload nuclear and fossil fuel plants were built, usually far from the largest electricity consumers (cities and large industry), and transported by huge (and not particular efficient) power lines. Those baseload plants had, and have, high capacity factors and run pretty much all the time, although nuclear reactors have to be shut for refueling for a few weeks every 12-18 months. Utilities try to arrange those shutdowns to occur during periods of low demand. During peak power needs–hot summer days in most of the country–smaller gas plants and in the old days even oil plants would be fired up to supplement the baseload levels.

And it all worked pretty well given the technology available at the time.

But, as we all now know all too clearly, that system had a price–a price not reflected in the cost of electricity. That system was and is killing us. Those large nuclear and fossil fuel plants are spewing out carbon dioxide and radioactivity and creating large quantities of dirty and deadly waste products that society doesn’t know what to do with.

Had the cost of those effects–which do have a price, a steep one–been incorporated into the price we and our parents paid for electricity, we probably would have moved to a clean energy system much faster. As it is, we no longer have much of a choice.

Fortunately, as is being proven daily in Europe, a grid based on smaller, distributed variable power sources can be just as reliable, and even more resilient and secure, than a grid reliant on baseload power. Variable does not mean unreliable: as long as it can be reliably projected with sufficient advance time what the wind will do and thus how much wind power will be available where, and the same for the sun, then a variable grid can be highly reliable. And those can be and are, in fact, reliably projected.

The ability to integrate a moderately large amount (say 30-35% or so) of renewables into a baseload-dominated grid is a given. It is happening daily. Not so much in the U.S., although even here states like Iowa are getting more than 20% of their power from renewables, and the percentage of renewables is set to rise rapidly–both on their own for sound economic reasons and due to encouragement of them in the Clean Power Plan.

But at some point above 35-40% renewables or so, a conflict arises. If more renewables are to be brought into the grid, the large baseload plants have to begin closing–even if they theoretically remain useful. That's because...

This is a very good read on the transition.
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