February 23, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 11:26 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Mounting confirmation battle sends warning sign to Biden (Stephen Collinson, 2/23/21, CNN)

Confirmation duels over Joe Biden's Cabinet picks have suddenly turned nasty, ringing alarm bells about the cliffhanger nature of a 50-50 Senate and bitter fights to come over the President's ambitious agenda.

Growing intrigue over a trio of controversial presidential picks is also underscoring the power of individual senators such as Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, when the partisan balance is so evenly divided.

The fact that he doesn't have 50 reliable votes in the Senate is why he should have compromised the ten Republicans offering a Covid deal by compromising with them. They'd be dead on the Right but dealmakers in the press and more likely to work with him on other issues.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Texas electricity crisis and the energy transition (Alex Gilbert and Morgan Bazilian, Feb. 19, 2021, Utility Dive)

As the storm hit, electric demand soared and many power plants suffered outages. Texas' grid operator, ERCOT, initiated load shedding to preserve the grid from complete collapse. Although these were called rolling outages, the normal response to tight grid conditions, the reality is that the forced generation outages were so severe that operators had shut off power for many customers for 24 hours or more. As critical infrastructure like hospitals are often in wealthier communities, it appears many poor and minority areas suffered a disproportionate share of the outages.

For much of the crisis, load shed was around 15-20 GW, roughly the average electricity demand for New England. Nationally, the storm led to a loss of power for more than 4.5 million customers, the vast majority of them in Texas.

As many households do not have sufficient insulation, millions of people have suffered near freezing, life-threatening indoor conditions. With many roads impassable and what few heating centers that existed presenting COVID-19 exposure risks, most were forced to wait it out. Cases of hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning rose rapidly with people using desperate methods to heat themselves. This was made considerably worse by impacts to the water system. As the water system relies on electricity to be delivered, it was severely impacted. This was further compounded by frozen and broken pipes.

Power plants in particular failed to perform at the level expected by grid planners. Both electric demand and forced outages greatly exceeded ERCOT's pre-winter resource assessment. Almost 30 GW of natural gas, coal, and nuclear generators (roughly half of what was expected to be online) were already on outage or suffered from a forced outage. Natural gas is the primary electricity source in the state, and was expected to provide as much as two thirds of electric capacity in such conditions. As much as 40% of natural gas capacity was not available.

While the precise reasons are yet to be revealed, these outages are likely due to a mix of plant-level issues and gas pipeline delivery issues. The interdependence between the gas and power sectors has been clearly illuminated. Frozen oil and gas wells cut production and there may be insufficient pipeline capacity. In one of the oil and gas capitals of the world, power plants could not get natural gas to operate. Even one of the state's four nuclear reactors, usually most resilient to weather-related disruptions, suffered an outage due to a sensor issue. Meanwhile, some wind turbines suffered from icing, with renewable energy capacity -- compared to grid planning criteria -- either overperforming or underperforming depending on the day.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


New York City Police Need to Be Held Accountable for Rising Crime, Andrew Yang Says (JASON LEMON, 2/23/21, Newsweek)

The former Democratic presidential candidate said that the city needs to be "mindful" of the need to "bring down the rates of violent crime that are rising." He said this is "not mutually exclusive" from addressing concerns about systematic racism and the sometimes violent actions of police.

"They actually should go hand in hand. You need to improve police culture while also holding police accountable to bring their resolution rates for violent crime up. Unfortunately, they are going down right now," Yang said. "That is another form of police accountability--if you have higher rates of unsolved crimes, that is not a trend that you want to continue."

"There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, anytime." 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

60-40 NATION:

Axios-Ipsos poll: Biden's window of opportunity on COVID (David Nather, 2/23/21, Axios)

By the numbers: 63% of respondents in this week's poll said they're very or somewhat confident in the new administration's ability to make the vaccines widely available, with 36% saying they're not very confident or not confident at all.

58% said they're confident that the administration can distribute the vaccines quickly, while 41% said they're not confident.

And 56% said they're confident in the administration's ability to get K-12 students back to school in person, while 43% say they're not confident.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Muslim Brotherhood, exiled opposition form united front (Al Monitor, Feb 23, 2021)

Egyptian opposition groups  announced Feb. 11 during a press conference held in Istanbul the formation of a unified political front for coordination between opposition forces abroad to work toward change in Egypt and to topple President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's regime.

The timing of the launch may be sparked by hopes that the Biden administraton will emphasize human rights in its dealings with Egypt, and put more pressure on Sisi to accommodate political dissent.

The front, named the Union of Egyptian National Forces, announced the formation of a presidential council, a council of elders and a higher committee comprising 100 members, including Egyptian prominent figures, national forces, political parties and independent figures based abroad mainly in Europe, the United States, Turkey, Canada, New Zealand, Malaysia and South Korea, as well as several Arab countries. Membership is open to any Egyptian who wants to join the union.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Most Ambitious Effort Yet to Reform Policing May Be Happening In Ithaca, New York (WESLEY LOWERY, February 22, 2021, GQ)

In a nearly 100-page report obtained by GQ, Mayor Svante Myrick will propose replacing the city's current 63-officer, $12.5 million a year department with a "Department of Community Solutions and Public Safety" which would include armed "public safety workers" and unarmed "community solution workers," all of whom will report to a civilian director of public safety instead of a police chief. Under the proposal, all current officers would have to re-apply for a position with the new department.

"IPD currently spends one third of its time responding to calls for service that essentially never lead to arrests," Myrick writes in the report's introduction. "Those calls, as well as a majority of patrol activity, can and should be handled by unarmed Community Solution Workers well trained in de-escalation and service delivery. This will allow our new Public Safety Workers to focus on preventing, interrupting and solving serious crime."

If the proposal is approved, calls for service will be evaluated to determine whether an armed or unarmed respondent is necessary, or another public agency altogether would be best to respond. Mental health calls would be outsourced to a standalone unit of social workers based on the CAHOOTS program pioneered in Eugene, Oregon. The goal, ultimately, is to have far fewer encounters between citizens and armed government agents.

"Everyone wants the police to perform better when they show up, everybody wants that. What this plan is saying is that we also want the police to show up less--and that's a radical thing for a city and a mayor to do." Myrick, 33, told me in an interview Sunday. While it may have been possible to push for similar reforms within the current department, Myrick said the entrenched culture would make them impossible to fully implement. In recent years, the city has battled with the police union over discipline for problem officers, including one officer who was caught on body camera bragging about dragging a handcuffed suspect down a set of stairs and another who was found to have inadequately investigated hundreds of crimes assigned to her over the course of a decade.

"This is my 10th year overseeing this department. And at times I feel like I'm managing a fish tank that somebody dumped a bunch of red dye in," he said. "When that happens, you have to scoop a gallon of water out, and put fresh water in, and the tank becomes a little less red with each gallon. This is a way of starting over with a fresh tank."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Hawaii Electric blows past 2020 target on road to 100% renewable energy (Joshua S Hill, 23 February 2021, Renew Economy)

Hawaii's largest utility, Hawaiian Electric, says it has blown past its mandated 2020 renewable energy target, reporting that 34.5% of its electricity generation mix was made up of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

In 2015 the State of Hawaii passed legislation requiring all electric utilities to achieve a 100% renewable energy portfolio standard by 2045, with interim goals of 30% by 2020, 40% by 2030, and 70% by 2040.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Blinken speaks to Ashkenazi, touts Biden support for 2-state solution (JACOB MAGID, 2/22/21, Times of Israel)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke Monday with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, reiterating the Biden administration's belief that a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians is the only way to maintain both Israel's Jewish and democratic character.

The conversation was the third between the two top diplomats in under a month.
"The Secretary also emphasized the Biden administration's belief that the two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable and democratic Palestinian state," State Department Ned Price said in a statement.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Startup survey shows hybrid office/remote work model set to continue (SHOSHANNA SOLOMON , 2/22/21, Times of Israel)

Even as COVID-19 vaccinations are being rolled out globally and in Israel, only 14.3% of the surveyed portfolio companies see their employees working solely in the workplace by July 1, 2021. The vast majority, 85.7%, predict a hybrid of in-office and remote work.