Late last year, an Iowa trial court held that Gov. Terry Branstad (R) violated the state constitution when he used a line-item veto in an attempt to prevent the legislature from shielding 36 unemployment offices he wanted to close. On Friday, that decision was affirmed by the state supreme court.
Amid escalating tensions between Iran and the the West, and what President Obama has termed “loose talk of war,” U.S. Secretary of State HIllary Clinton today released a message for Noruz, the Iranian New Year. Obama, in years past, released videos marking Noruz. Clinton’s statement, which was also released in Arabic and Farsi, cited the 3,000-year old tradition as a reminder “of our shared commitment to a better world”:
The people of the United States join you in welcoming the opportunities of this new year and the possibilities for strengthening ties of family and friends. And as we face new challenges, we remain committed to our support for universal human rights and the freedom of expression — rights that promote peace and progress.
Major PV country markets (GigaWatts). Source: NPD Solarbuzz 2012 Marketbuzz
Global deployment of solar photovoltaics increased by 40% in 2011, with 27.5 gigawatts of projects installed in 12 months, according to a new report from NPD Solarbuzz. Last year’s strong installation figures prove how quickly the technology can be deployed compared to large, centralized forms of generation.
Those installations helped the industry bring in $93 billion in global revenues ? a 12% increase over 2010.
America’s solar industry saw 109% growth in 2011, with 1,855 megawatts of projects installed, according to analysis from GTM Research. That crushed the previous record of 887 MW, and finally brought the U.S. into the “gigawatt club.” The country represented about 7% of global PV demand in 2011:
Will that domestic and international growth continue this year?
The expiration of the Treasury Grant Program, which provided developers with a cash payment of 30% of a project’s cost, could set the industry back a bit over the coming year. The grant program was created in order to make up for the collapse of the tax equity market (i.e. the players that can monetize tax credits). While the financial markets have bounced back since 2009, some fear that the limited number of tax equity financiers may limit installations.
But there’s still a pipeline of projects that were started in 2011 to take advantage of the grant before it expired. GTM Research expects that pipeline to prop up the U.S. market into 2012:
This quarter we have increased our base case 2012 forecast from 2.5 GW to 2.8 GW as a result of the large quantity of product safe harbored to meet the Section 1603 Treasury program year-end deadline. Most of these projects will be completed in 2012 and will prop up installation totals throughout the year. In addition, we are more bullish on near-term growth prospects in the California commercial market and in the prospects for many of the utility-scale projects in the pipeline to attain financing. In truth, 2012 market size will still be largely determined by factors that have not yet been decided, such as the final outcome of the trade petition and market dynamics in Germany and Italy.
With some key markets slowing down in 2012, Solarbuzz analysts are questioning whether the 2011 growth rate will be sustained in the short term:
?Aggressive cuts in incentives in Germany and other European countries have set up the potential for a global market decline in 2012, but ahead of these the rush to install is on, especially in Germany,? said Craig Stevens, President of NPD Solarbuzz. ?These cuts in tariffs will force companies to embrace self-sustaining marketing models earlier than they expected. Meanwhile, Chinese policy makers will face a decision whether to stimulate their domestic market even more than planned to support their globally dominant manufacturing base.?
The top five countries ? Germany, Italy, China, the United States, and France ? represented three quarters of global demand in 2011. Incentive cuts in the top three European markets could slow momentum and reduce the region’s share of installs.
But what happens in China matters a great deal. That country, which historically had no domestic market for solar PV installations, saw a stunning 470% increase in deployment last year. Chinese officials have set a goal for 15 GW of installations by 2015 ? a target that could be reached by as early as 2013.
The bottom line is that if markets like China and the U.S. can make up for slumping demand in Europe, 2012 may be far better than expected.
Trayvon was seventeen years old. He was a cheerful A and B student whose favorite subject was math. He also tended to be tardy a bit too often, and was serving a suspension from school for chronic tardiness (a punishment which truly makes no sense). He was cheerful, caring, and loved. He was someone's son, nephew, brother, and he was shot by a man who claimed he shot him in self-defense.
Trayvon's "weapons" were a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles; the other guy had a gun. Yet, George Zimmerman, neighborhood watch captain, thought he looked suspicious and "up to no good." At one point he told 911 operators "these a-holes always get away." Here are the 911 recordings in their entirety from that day (note: some NSFW language):
In one of the 911 recordings, you'll hear Trayvon screaming for help for several seconds before the gunshots. Then nothing.
This is George Zimmerman:
Licensed to carry a firearm and a student of criminal justice, Zimmerman went door-to-door asking residents to be on the lookout, specifically referring to young black men who appeared to be outsiders, and warned that some were caught lurking, neighbors said. The self-appointed captain of the neighborhood watch program is credited with cracking some crimes, and thwarting others.
But the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin left the boy?s family and attorneys convinced that the volunteer developed a twisted sense of entitlement, one that gave him a false sense of authority to enforce the rule of law in his tiny gated community. Trayvon?s family?s attorneys believe that led to racial profiling and murder.
?He would circle the block and circle it; it was weird,? said Teontae Amie, 17. ?If he had spotted me, he?d probably ask me if I lived here. He was known for being really strict.?
Zimmerman called police 46 times since Jan. 1, 2011 to report disturbances, break-ins, windows left open and other incidents. Nine of those times, he saw someone or something suspicious.
Zimmerman had been the subject of earlier complaints by residents of the gated community in which he and Martin's family lived. At an emergency homeowner's association meeting earlier this month, "one man was escorted out because he openly expressed his frustration because he had previously contacted the Sanford Police Department about Zimmerman approaching him and even coming to his home," a resident wrote in an email to HuffPost. "It was also made known that there had been several complaints about George Zimmerman and his tactics" in his neighborhood watch captain role.
An emergency homeowner's association meeting earlier that month to discuss a neighborhood watch captain? Really.
I want you to imagine, readers, that these 911 recordings were about the reverse situation: A black neighborhood watch captain shooting a white or Latino kid wandering around in the neighborhood. Do you suppose that black guy would be in jail waiting for his first degree murder trial?
In fact, George Zimmerman has not been arrested. He claims he was shooting in self-defense, yet your own ears will not lie to you. A child was screaming for help, there was a gunshot, and then silence. No more screams. Yet Zimmerman claims Trayvon was a threat to him, despite the clear cries for help heard on the 911 recordings. As Melissa Harris-Perry explains in this video, Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law lends an excuse for modern-day vigilantism.
Zimmerman could lawfully shoot Martin if he, "knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred." [No] unlawful act had occurred or was occurring. If Zimmerman had "reason to believe" such an act was in progress, the police have declined to cite it. My hope is that the vague charge of looking "suspicious" would not meet that threshold.
Charles M. Blow expresses the fears he and other black parents have for their children:
This case has reignited a furor about vigilante justice, racial-profiling and equitable treatment under the law, and it has stirred the pot of racial strife.
As the father of two black teenage boys, this case hits close to home. This is the fear that seizes me whenever my boys are out in the world: that a man with a gun and an itchy finger will find them ?suspicious.? That passions may run hot and blood run cold. That it might all end with a hole in their chest and hole in my heart. That the law might prove insufficient to salve my loss.
That is the burden of black boys in America and the people that love them: running the risk of being descended upon in the dark and caught in the cross-hairs of someone who crosses the line.
There is a petition circulating at change.org by Trayvon's family, asking that George Zimmerman be arrested, charged and tried for their son's killing. They haven't lost faith in the rule of law to bring justice for their son, despite the fact that Zimmerman made a judgment about Trayvon Williams, convicted him and sentenced him to death in the span of a few minutes.
If I were the jury and had as evidence nothing more than witness statements and 911 recordings, I can honestly say there would be reason to arrest and charge him. Arresting and charging is not finding someone guilty. It is simply saying there should be a full fact-finding effort before a jury of Zimmerman's peers.
Florida should do this. The FBI should investigate it, and whether these broad self-defense laws work against people of color. We have a justice system for a reason. Let's use it.
Petty's classic 1989 song of defiance against forces of oppression. Ironically, it was used by by George Bush in his 2000 presidential election campaign until he was threatened with legal action from Petty's publishers. Pete made this video using images of protests from the Vietnam war era, the 1984 British Miners' strike, the end of the Berlin Wall, 2010 London student fee protests, and the 2011 freedom struggles in the Middle East and North Africa. Enjoy!
Late on Friday, the Administration laid out a series of new details on the contraceptive mandate that has caused such controversy over the past several weeks. And it turns out that the White House determined that they could not enforce the mandate on[...]
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If you're like most TAP readers, you're an over-educated, latte-sipping, NPR-listening elitist, which means that this weekend you probably heard This American Life's extraordinary hour-long retraction of a story they aired a few weeks ago featuring Mike Daisey, whose well-reviewed stage monologue "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs" discusses Daisey's ambivalence about his love affair with Apple products, and includes accounts of Daisey's visit to the Foxconn factory in China where many Apple products are manufactured. Briefly, TAL did an episode featuring Daisey's stories, but it turned out that many of them were embellished. He used his own experiences, then added to them things he had heard or read about, saying he had actually seen things like underage workers and workers poisoned by the hexane used in the manufacturing process (there was an incident involving hexane poisoning, but it didn't happen at the plants Daisey visited). Essentially, Daisey wrote his stage monologue to be as compelling a story as possible, but then TAL called and he presented parts of it on their show without telling them what was real and what was made up.
When they discovered this, Ira Glass and his team decided to create an object lesson in journalistic responsibility. For context, consider the place that corrections usually occupy in journalism. Newspapers contain a small correction box on an inside page, where days or weeks after an error occurred, it is corrected in a spot virtually nobody reads. Television news programs almost never offer on-air corrections at all. Ask a journalism professor how corrections ought to be done, and the first thing he or she will say is that the correction ought to be given at least as much prominence as the original mistake. Which never, ever happens. Except in this case.
Granted, This American Life is a weekly program, which means they have plenty of time to put together a program like this. That luxury isn't really available to your average newspaper. But the program they did ought to be mandatory listening for every journalism student. They walked through exactly what their process was, how they allowed Daisey's fabrications to get through, and what it took to find out the truth. And they confront Daisey himself?the interview with him, in which he puts up a feeble defense but admits most of his lies, is profoundly uncomfortable but undeniably compelling, as we listen to Daisey essentially narrate the crumbling of his career (here's the transcript).
As James Fallows says, what's so infuriating about Daisey's deceptions is that they were so unnecessary. "Do we care whether Upton Sinclair had actually seen the packinghouse cruelties he described in The Jungle? Whether any family exactly like the Joads was known to John Steinbeck -- or exactly like George Bailey's or Mr. Potter to Frank Capra for It's a Wonderful Life? Charles Dickens and Oliver Twist? You get the point. Mike Daisey could have had 98% of the intellectual/social impact of his monologue, and zero % of the dishonesty and now disgrace, if he had described it as an attempt to convey the truth of a situation through imagined details."
Once he took his piece off the stage and on to This American Life, he should have told them what was true and what wasn't. But by that time, he was in too deep. And TAL made a mistake in not checking on his details more thoroughly. But they more than made up for that mistake by giving all their listeners an explanation, in the most high-profile way they could, of how it happened. And it made for great radio! Not only that, they've elevated their credibility about as high as it could go.
One post-script: Apple has gotten a lot of attention on the subject of conditions for workers at the plants that make iPads and iPhones. But look down at your computer. Is it a Dell? Or an HP? Or a Lenovo? Or a Toshiba? Or a Sony? Well guess what?your computer was probably made in China too, either at a Foxconn factory or one much like it, or maybe worse. Apple gets the attention because its products are the most fetishized, but the other big electronics manufacturers take advantage of the same global system of cheap labor and high-volume manufacturing that Apple exploits.
At the beginning of this month, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, basically, no more health care repeal votes, we should do some real work now.
Scene change to today on the other side of Capitol Hill, where, as David Waldman explained, the big action the House is going to be taking this week, H.R. 5, is on a repeal bill. They call it the "Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act," though it has very little to actually do with health care. It's mostly about tort reform.
What's slightly different about this bill is that it has both a repeal and, believe it or not, replace component. It would repeal one of the mechanisms for cost savings in Medicare?the independent Payment Advisory Board?and replace it with a totally non-proven cost-saver that wouldn't affect Medicare, but has been one of very few concrete "reform" ideas the Republicans have come up with: tort reform.
The repeal legislation enjoyed notable Democratic support until last week, when GOP leaders announced plans to link it to another proposal to limit certain medical malpractice awards.As with most of what the House has done, this is purely political posturing. They promised "repeal and replace," and this is what they came up with, hoping that they can make life uncomfortable for a few Democratic incumbents, have something to show the base, even while realizing it will die in the Senate. Where even Republicans aren't interested in having any more of these votes.
Still, the measures should attract support from Republicans and moderate/vulnerable Democrats to pass the House.
The House may as well have stayed in recess. They accomplish just as much when they're on vacation, and are a lot less destructive.
The release part of the foreclosure settlement document appears to release everything in the world and then goes back and names exemptions, which seems a little screwy. Yves Smith seems to have the same concern, adding that because the exemptions are[...]
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Apple?the world's most valuable company?announced today that it plans to use some of its $97 billion cash stockpile toward paying a regular dividend of $2.65 per share starting in the fourth quarter, and a stock buyback of up to $10 billion. Apple has resisted paying dividends?the last time Apple paid a dividend was in 1995, before Steve Jobs returned as CEO?but analysts say that the plan is likely good for the company in the long-term. ?It will attract a broader class of investor," says A. M. Sacconaghi Jr. with Bernstein Research. ?This is something that large shareholders have been asking for,"says Shaw Wu at Sterne Agee & Leach Inc. Over the course of three years, these programs should use up about $45 billion of the cash accumulated during past few years.
Obama is having a harder time collecting big donations than he was four years ago, and is also lagging behind the fundraising numbers from Bush's re-election campaign in 2004. Obama is still outpacing his potential Republican opponents in fundraising overall and is collecting a far greater percentage of overall fundraising from small donors than Romney, but the GOP frontrunner has a bigger roster of 1 percenters to draw from. It remains to be seen which type of support will be a bigger boon in the general election.
Although gloom and doom often dominates conversations about news consumption, this year's State of the Media report is a good reminder that, thankfully, good journalism is still an important part of many people's lives?it's just more likely that they'll read it on a phone instead of in print.