June 29, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 9:30 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:07 PM


From pandering to Putin to abusing allies and ignoring his own advisers, Trump's phone calls alarm US officials (Carl Bernstein, June 29, 2020, CNN)

In hundreds of highly classified phone calls with foreign heads of state, President Donald Trump was so consistently unprepared for discussion of serious issues, so often outplayed in his conversations with powerful leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, and so abusive to leaders of America's principal allies, that the calls helped convince some senior US officials -- including his former secretaries of state and defense, two national security advisers and his longest-serving chief of staff -- that the President himself posed a danger to the national security of the United States, according to White House and intelligence officials intimately familiar with the contents of the conversations.

The calls caused former top Trump deputies -- including national security advisers H.R. McMaster and John Bolton, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and White House chief of staff John Kelly, as well as intelligence officials -- to conclude that the President was often "delusional," as two sources put it, in his dealings with foreign leaders. ['...]

In his phone exchanges with Putin, the sources reported, the President talked mostly about himself, frequently in over-the-top, self-aggrandizing terms: touting his "unprecedented" success in building the US economy; asserting in derisive language how much smarter and "stronger" he is than "the imbeciles" and "weaklings" who came before him in the presidency (especially Obama); reveling in his experience running the Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow, and obsequiously courting Putin's admiration and approval. Putin "just outplays" him, said a high-level administration official -- comparing the Russian leader to a chess grandmaster and Trump to an occasional player of checkers. While Putin "destabilizes the West," said this source, the President of the United States "sits there and thinks he can build himself up enough as a businessman and tough guy that Putin will respect him." (At times, the Putin-Trump conversations sounded like "two guys in a steam bath," a source added.).

Posted by orrinj at 1:22 PM


John Roberts' Opinion Preserving Abortion Rights Is Also a Threat to Abortion Rights: The chief justice begrudgingly upheld precedent while rolling back the constitutional right to choose. (MARK JOSEPH STERN, JUNE 29, 2020, Slate)

In short, Roberts--alone among the conservatives--agreed with the liberals that Louisiana cannot pretend its law creates no real burden for abortion patients in the face of ample evidence that it would shutter clinics.

But the chief justice then whittled down the holding of Whole Woman's Health, replacing its balancing test with a stingier rule that may give states broader leeway to restrict abortion. Roberts expressly disavowed Breyer's test, which weighed a law's benefits to patients against its burdens. "There is no plausible sense in which anyone," he wrote, "let alone this Court, could objectively assign weight to such imponderable values" as "the potentiality of human life" and a woman's "own concept of existence." Rather, he declared, the court must retreat back to Casey's cramped standard, which asks only if an abortion restriction imposes an "undue burden," and does not permit courts to consider the benefits, or lack thereof, in making that determination.

Roberts' revision marks a retreat from Whole Woman's Health, effectively overruling its expansion of Casey and preventing courts from invalidating moderately burdensome abortion limitations. Consider this hypothetical example: A state requires patients to wait one week between requesting an abortion and obtaining one. During that period, she must visit the clinic at least three times to view multiple anti-abortion documentaries, ostensibly to ensure she understands the consequences of her decision.

Under Breyer's balancing test, this law would obviously be unconstitutional: It provides no actual medical benefits to patients while imposing at least some real burdens. But under Roberts' version of the Casey standard, it might be constitutional: Yes, the law would put an obstacle in patients' path to abortion, compelling them to make repeated visits to a clinic that might be hundreds of miles away and spend hours viewing propaganda. But it is, at least in theory, a surmountable obstacle (even though in reality many women would just give up). So Roberts may well find that it is not an undue burden.

In truth, however, it's not even clear that Roberts' loose test will survive for long. The chief justice noted that "I joined the dissent in Whole Woman's Health and continue to believe that the case was wrongly decided." He then pointed out that no party in June Medical "has asked us to reassess the constitutional validity" of Casey. Here, Roberts strongly suggests that he would be open to overruling Casey if a state asked him to. But because Louisiana did not challenge that decision, Roberts felt obliged to stand by it.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


After 134 years, renewables beat coal in US - and head to 50 pct share by 2030 (Fereidoon Sioshansi, 29 June 2020, Renew Economy)

Coal is facing strong head winds in Europe as well. In April 2020, Sweden announced the closure of its last coal-fired power plant 2 years ahead of its pledge to exit coal. Perhaps all those Friday sit-ins by Greta Thunberg in front of the Swedish parliament were not in vain. Belgium got out of coal in 2016 as did Austria in 2020 with 6 other European countries,

France, Slovakia, Portugal, United Kingdom, Ireland, and Italy, planning to do the same by 2025 followed by another 5 by 2030 and Germany by 2038.

In the case of the US, the continued growth of renewables is almost entirely attributable to wind and solar.

According to the EIA 2019 also marked the year when wind generation surpassed hydro for the first time, becoming the biggest source of renewable generation in the US.

In the meantime, solar output is accelerating, and it is a matter of time before it exceeds wind. And together, they will soon exceed nuclear, eventually even natural gas.

What is noteworthy, however, is not that renewable generation continues to grow while coal output declines and nuclear stays steady before it begins its eventual decline, but the speed of the transition over the past decade and - even more important - the next.

The rise of wind and solar in the past decade across the globe has been nothing short of miraculous. It took roughly 10 years for wind to beat hydro in the US (visual above).

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Renewables provide almost half of UK electricity in first three months of 2020 (Joshua S Hill, 29 June 2020, Renew Economy)

The UK's Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published its official statistics for the first quarter of 2020, revealing that total renewable generation increased by 30% against the same quarter a year earlier, increasing to provide 40.8TWh, an increase of 9.4TWh and a record increase for year-on-year quarterly renewable generation.

As such, the share of electricity generation provided by renewable energy sources during the first three months of 2020 increased to 47% - up an impressive 11.1% on the same quarter a year earlier.

The new generation record beat out the previous best of 32.5TWh set in the fourth quarter of 2019 - which, in and of itself, shows consistency in the growth of the UK's renewable energy network.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump tells black people who want statues taken down they 'need to learn' from history and not erase an entire era otherwise 'you're going to go back to it sometime' (HARRIET ALEXANDER, 29 June 2020, Daily Mail)

Donald Trump has said that black people who want statues of slave owners and Confederate figures removing should 'learn from the history' or risk 'going to go back to it sometime'.