26 Jan 2015

Obama on Russia: 'Large countries shouldn't bully smaller countries'

The military option is out, President Barack Obama said Sunday, but the U.S. will be looking at all other options to "ratchet up the pressure on Russia" on the issue of Ukraine. 
"We have no interest in seeing Russia weakened or its economy in shambles. We have a profound interest, as I believe every country does, in promoting a core principle, which is: Large countries don't bully smaller countries," Obama told reporters.
Speaking in New Delhi after a lengthy flight on Air Force One, Obama said Sunday he will "look at all the additional options that are available to us short of military confrontation."
On Monday, Obama will be the first U.S. leader to headline India's annual Republic Day parade, a colorful military spectacle featuring marching bands, dancing and lots of heavy machinery rolling down the stately Rajpath Boulevard.
The parade will be a reminder of the decades of sometimes-tense relations between India and the U.S. A military demonstration at heart, the vehicles and equipment parading before Obama will be mostly Russian-made, a vestige of India's stance during the Cold War.
Russia remains India's largest supplier of weapons, and while their share is steadily decreasing, Russian military imports still amount to three-quarters of India's stockpile.
With U.S.-Russia relations worsening to Cold War levels, Obama hopes to balance Moscow's influence in India during his visit this week.
His visit comes a day after city officials in Mariupol, Ukraine, said shelling in southeastern Ukraine killed at least 30 people, including two children.
Another 102 people were injured, at least 75 of whom needed hospital treatment, and many suffered shrapnel injuries, Mariupol City Council said.
Pro-Russian separatists are blamed for the attack on residential areas in the port city, Donetsk regional police chief Vyacheslav Abroskin said on his Facebook page.
Monitors with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe said they conducted a crater analysis which showed the use of Grad and Uragan rockets that likely originated from areas controlled by the pro-Russian rebel group Donetsk People's Republic.
The shelling comes amid a surge in fighting between government forces and pro-Russian separatists.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed Ukraine and Syria during a phone call, the State Department said.
"On Ukraine, the Secretary reiterated our condemnation of the separatists' grad missile attack on civilians in Mariupol ... and other separatist attacks," a statement said. "The Secretary reiterated the need for an immediate resumption of the ceasefire, a withdrawal of heavy weapons, and closing the border.
"He also underscored U.S. readiness to participate in serious settlement efforts, making clear that deescalation is in everyone's interests, that Russia will be judged by its actions, and that the costs to Russia will only increase if attacks continue."
Kerry has previously warned of increased international pressure on Russia.
"We call on Russia to end its support for separatists immediately, close the international border with Ukraine, and withdraw all weapons, fighters and financial backing," Kerry said in a statement Saturday.

Rooftop solar is now cheaper than the grid in 42 American cities

New numbers show solar-generated electricity is ready for head-on competition with utility-delivered electricity.
Nearly 21 million single-family homeowners in 42 of the 50 biggest U.S. cities can now expect to pay less for electricity from solar than for electricity they buy from their utility. In fact, the numbers show money spent on a residential solar system earns a better return than investing in Standard and Poor’s 500 index fund.
“Solar is now not just an option for the rich, but a real opportunity for anyone looking to take greater control over their monthly utility bills and make a long-term, relatively low-risk investment,” explains "Going Solar in America: Ranking Solar’s Value to Consumers in America’s Largest Cities," a new study from the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center.

The information gap

To breach the “clear information gap” between the popular presumption that solar energy is an expensive indulgence and the new reality that it is a competitively priced source of electricity, the paper uses a range of National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) System Advisor Model (SAM) parameters and other factors to calculate rankings. The list for the top 50 solar cities was based on: 
  1. First-year average monthly savings
  2. Net present value (NPV) relative to a 25 year investment in the S&P 500 stock index
  3. Levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) compared to the cost of electricity from the local utility

“We decided to use first year savings because NREL research shows customers tend to be more responsive to something that gives them greater benefits more quickly,” explained Senior Policy Analyst and report co-author Jim Kennerly.
Solar’s NPV was calculated for a 5 kilowatt system purchased with a 25-year, 5% loan and compared to an S&P 500 index with assumed SAM default parameters of a 6.61% annualized and dividend reinvested discount rate. It assumed a 2.7% inflation rate.
Kilowatt-hours from that same system now cost less than those from a residential customer’s local utility. “Of the single-family homeowners in America’s 50 largest cities,” according to the report, “9.1 million already live in a city where solar costs less than their current utility [retail] rates if they bought a PV system outright – and nearly 21 million (93% of all estimated single-family homeowners [that are customers of the utilities that serve] those cities) do if low-cost financing is available.”
A companion report, "Going Solar in America: A Guide for Homeowners Considering Solar PV in America’s 50 Largest Cities," explains how homeowners can take advantage of the solar opportunity.
Solar’s LCOE was based on SAM parameters, beginning with insolation, and was compared with Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts of utility rate increases of between 33% and 83%, depending on the city, over the 25-year PV system life.
“The average LCOE for a fully financed solar system in the country’s largest cities ranges from only $0.031 per kWh [Washington, D.C.] to $0.144 per kWh [Louisville, KY],” the researchers found.
The conclusion was straightforward. “If getting value for solar generation is tied to the retail rate, you are going to get to a very strong value proposition,” Kennerly said, “because utility rates tend to escalate reasonably predictably.”

The 'many reasons' homeowners go solar 

“There are many reasons people will go solar, like environmental or energy security concerns, but we chose to look at these financial things because money is the one that gets people to act,” said co-author Autumn Proudlove. “Just talking money, solar is a good option for the average person right now.”
“Solar PV helps them lock in a set rate for a certain amount of their electricity for a long period of time,” Kennerly said. “By doing that, they save a great deal of money compared to what they would have paid in the future, given thatrates are going up.”
“Monthly electric bill savings are calculated as the difference between an average customer’s bill with solar and what the same customer’s bill would have been without solar,” the report explains. “The utilities whose customers see the greatest monthly dollar savings are Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, Arizona Public Service, and NSTAR.”
 “We are also seeing declines in the cost of solar. That really makes the financial case,” Proudlove added.  “And if you look at the soft costs, which are the biggest part of the cost of solar right now, if you can attack those and reduce them, it will make the value greater.”
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) put the 1998 median cost of residential solar at $12 per watt and the 2013 cost at $4.70 per watt, the researchers report. Data from the online solar marketplace EnergySage puts the Q3 2014 average cost without incentives at between $3.70 per watt and $4.24 per watt.

This Muslim Woman is Suing Cops for Violating Her First Amendment Rights During a Routine Arrest

A Muslim woman is suing the Dearborn Heights police department for allegedly violating her First Amendment rights.
Malak Kazan, 27, of Dearborn Heights was pulled over by police and arrested for having a suspended license. While she was being booked, she was forced to remove her hijab. She was told she could not wear the head scarf while being processed and while in custody.
Muslim women must wear their hijab in public and in front of men who are not closely related to her. Because Kazan was forced to remove her head scarf, she feels she was humiliated and violated.
In forcing Kazan to remove her head scarf, she claims that the police department violated her right to religious freedom. ABC 7 reports:
“The main issue here is that my client’s constitutional rights, her religious liberties, can’t be stripped at the jailhouse door. She has an absolute right to maintain her faith,” Kazan’s attorney Amir Makledsaid. “We hope this cause of action will bring to light a policy that is dated and needs to be amended. … We also hope to get some further diversity training for officers in the city. Hopefully this will be a learning experience for other law enforcement agencies.”
Kazan is taking the lawsuit before a federal judge who will determine if her rights were violated:
“wearing a head scarf is a reminder of her faith, the importance of modesty in her religion … as well as a symbol of her own control over who may see the more intimate parts of her body,” the lawsuit said. “To have her hair and neck uncovered in public … is … deeply humiliating, violating, and defiling experience.”
The Dearborn Heights police department did not have enough female officers on hand to accommodate Kazan and were therefore forced to compel her to remove her hijab according to the department’s safety protocols. ABC 7 reports:
“Articles such as hats, caps, hijabs, can contain concealable items that could pose a threat or chance of injury to the cops or to themselves,” Dearborn Heights Police Chief Lee Garvin said.
“Our procedure is to have them take the hijab off in the presence of a female… We don’t always have enough female officers present in the station. Our Number one concern is security of our officers and the prisoners.” Garvin said. 
This lawsuit brings up an interesting concern over what is more important: the rights of the accused or the rights of law enforcement to do their jobs and protect themselves.

This School District’s Plan To Dramatically Improve Graduation Rates; Increase Fairness Is INSANE!!

In Monroe County, Tennessee it’s against official school policy to give high school students lower than a 60% on any paper, project or test, after all everyone deserves the chance to graduate high school! 
A new grading system is about to get underway in all Monroe County public high schools.
Board members decided to set the minimum failing grade for students at 60 percent. Monroe County Schools explains the policy change is to ensure all students have the opportunity to pass classes and graduate, but it’s stirring up some opposition. With a majority rule, the school board adopted a grading system that would make it more difficult for students to fail.

Director of Schools Tim Blankenship said in a statement “the minimum failing grade in grades 9-12 will be 60 percent.”
With 30 years’ education experience, Janie Harrill was one of three board members who voted against the measure.
“I feel that we are not teaching our students they have to be responsible for the choices they make in life.”

This is just about helping high school kids get their diploma,” says Larry Stein, a board member on the Monroe County Board of Education who voted to approve the policy.
For Stein, the new policy makes it easier for students to dig themselves out of a hole instead of quitting altogether.
“A 60% is still a failing grade. But, it averages in better than that 0% or 10% does, which is devastating,” says Stein.

But, not everyone agrees. Sonya Lynn is one of three board members who voted against the new policy.
“If someone says I’m going to give you this, then I’m not going to apply myself. If it’s there, why should I apply myself? Why should I learn anything,” says Lynn.

Read More:http://www.wbir.com/story/news/local/2015/01/13/60-becomes-new-zero-for-monroe-county-students/21715941/ 

Funny Doorbell Notes From Angry Moms (17 pics)

Stray Cats Find Home in a Bookstore in Hong Kong (10 Pics)

A small bookstore (SAM KEE Bookstore, 森記圖書) in North Point, Hong kong became a little haven for many local homeless and stray cats. According to Chunli who visited the store, the owners of the bookstore have taken in many homeless cats and let them sleep inside, play and hang out with their customers. The kitties are well fed and given plenty of love. They enjoy patrolling the aisles and napping on a stack of books or a customer’s lap.
Many people come to the bookstore to read and spend time with the cats. Some are regular customers who have bonded with some of the 4-legged friends in the store.
The bookstore is a permanent home to many cats who otherwise would be roaming the streets.  They feel very loved and happy there.

25 Jan 2015

World backs India against US bullying on patents.

Apprehensive of the US exerting pressure on India to dilute the public health safeguards in its patent laws, organizations from across the world have signed a global petition supporting India's patent law and urging India to stand strong in the face of "US bullying". 

Along with over 77,000 individuals and 10 organizations working on public health issues in India, the signatories of the petition initiated by the non-profit Oxfam India include 11 organizations from Thailand, where there is strong civil society mobilization on public health issues, two from Malaysia and several coalitions from South Asia and the Asia Pacific. 

Yet another petition initiated by the non-profit Avaaz, was targeted specifically at the Obama visit stating that his visit to India could spell life or death for millions of poor people in Asia, Africa and Latin America. This petition has gathered over 870,000 signatures from across the world both from developing and developed countries.  

The Avaaz petition urged people to move fast to ensure the poor could still get the medicines they needed. 

"India produces cheap HIV, malaria and cancer drugs, but American drug companies want to stop this, to sell their own products at higher prices. Their fierce lobby has got the US to push their line hard, even threatening trade sanctions if India doesn't change patent laws which put people before profits. Now pressure is rising, with talks set to begin on an investment treaty," warned the petition. 

It said, "President Obama boldly faced down critics to expand healthcare for the poor in the US. Let's call on him to do the same for global medicine and open up the trade talks, consider our people's trade plan and put the poorest patients' lives before Big Pharma's profits." 

The Oxfam petition signatories also included some US-based organizations (Health Gap, International Treatment Preparedness Coalition, Knowledge Ecology International and Young Professionals Chronic Disease Network) mostly coalitions or networks of community-based movements, consumer groups, researchers and activists in the field of HIV treatment which work in various developing countries in Africa, South Asia and the Asia Pacific. 

Other signatories included Consumer Association the Quality of Life (EKPIZO), Greece, Health Innnovation in Practice (HIP), Switzerland and Medecins du Monde (Doctors of the World), France. 

The petition stated: "India is the pharmacy of the developing world. It is a critical global supplier of low priced medicines to treat diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, cancer and diabetes, which are among the biggest causes of death and suffering." It added that medicines were affordable for millions of poor patients across the world, thanks to India's progressive intellectual property system and that this system was responsible for bringing down the price of medicines through generic competition. Indian generic medicines have reduced the prices of HIV/AIDS treatments by more than 90%. 

Read More:http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/World-backs-India-against-bully-US/articleshow/46007104.cms

Fact-Checking Site Proves Just How Good President Obama Has Been for America

Following his annual State of the Union speech, many Republicans have been quite critical of the supposed “arrogance” President Obama displayed while giving his address. Then again, what’s new? Republicans have been trying to paint the president as arrogant and “out of touch” for years.
But like with all recent SOTU speeches, fact-checking organizations usually work overtime in an attempt to investigate whether or not what the president said during his speech was factually accurate. And this year was no different.

And when it comes to the “Truth-O-Meter” over at Politifact, President Obama’s SOTU speech scored extremely high marks for accuracy and truth.
When he said that America is number one in wind power, that was rated as “Mostly True” with the only caveat being that China technically has the capacity to produce more wind power, but we convert more of it into electricity.
Then there was when the president said we’re creating more jobs than at any other time since 1999, Politifact rated that as 100 percent “True.” We all remember 1999, right? You know, the last time we had a Democrat in the White House.

When he talked about our unemployment rate he claimed that it’s now below where it was before the financial crisis hit our economy. That statement was rated as “Mostly True,” though Politifact claims they need clarification based upon how many people have simply stopped looking for work. That’s a statistic that’s nearly impossible to measure considering the reasons why people stop looking for work are varied and often have nothing to do with the strength of the economy. “Real unemployment” is a never taken into account when factoring in the unemployment rate, so using that as a variable to downgrade the honesty of a statement didn’t make much sense to me. But nevertheless, Obama’s statement is still factually accurate based on the same measure we’ve used for decades.

Who remembers all of the right-wing rhetoric over the last few years about Obama making the U.S. more dependent on foreign oil, which would then weaken our national security and could possibly threaten to send gas prices over $5 per gallon? It really is laughable to look back at all of the ridiculous claims Republicans have made against the president over the years. Well, during his SOTU speech the president proudly claimed that America is the number one producer of oil and gas. That’s another statement that was rated as completely “True.”

So, not only has Obama pushed the U.S. to convert more wind energy to electricity than any other nation on the planet, but we’re also producing more oil and gas than anyone else. Funny, George W. Bush couldn’t do that in eight years; President Obama did it in six.
Then when he said that the U.S. is the only developed country on Earth without a paid maternity leave, he was absolutely right. This was another statement that was rated as “Mostly True.” The only discrepancy found in his claim is that three states in the U.S. (California, New Jersey, Rhode Island) do mandate it. Just think about that for a moment. Many Americans claim that this is the “greatest nation on Earth,” yet we’re the only developed nation on Earth that doesn’t require paid maternity leave.

When he said our deficits have been cut by two-thirds, he was also factual about that as well. That statement received a “Mostly True” rating. The main “issue” being that it’s true if you base it off 2009 numbers when deficits were extraordinarily high and some are projecting deficits to eventually increase within the next few years, mainly due to the lack of revenue increases (such as tax hikes) and entitlement reform.

 See more at: http://www.forwardprogressives.com/fact-checking-site-proves-just-good-president-obama-america/

High Living Leftist Billionaire Tells Americans Their Lifestyles Are Too…

Billionaire Jeff Greene recently flew to Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum. While there, he proposed to lecture Americans back home about pursuing moderation and simplicity in their lifestyles.
In comments that you’d expect to hear from Paris Hilton, rather than a respected and successful US businessman, Greene proceeded to call on Americans to re-invent their entire style of living because the American Dream is all but dead.
“America’s lifestyle expectations are far too high and need to be adjusted so we have less things and a smaller, better existence,” Greene said in an interview today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “We need to reinvent our whole system of life.”

The 60-year-old founder of Palm Beach, Florida-based Florida Sunshine Investments said his biggest fund was up more than 20 percent last year with bets on Apple Inc. (AAPL), Google Inc. (GOOGL), bank stocks and mortgage-backed securities.
“I’m remarkably long for my level of pessimism,” he said. “Our economy is in deep trouble. We need to be honest with ourselves. We’ve had a realistic level of job destruction, and those jobs aren’t coming back.”
Greene, who flew his wife, children and two nannies on a private jet plane to Davos for the week, said he’s planning a conference in Palm Beach, Florida, at the Tideline Hotel called “Closing the Gap.” The event, which he said is scheduled for December, will feature speakers such as economist Nouriel Roubini.
Of course, Greene MUST practice what he preaches, right? He’s probably already cut back on his excessive and extravagant billionaire lifestyle to help lead the way for other Americans to realize the utter futility of their dreams and ambitions.

State Department Proposes Using Disney’s “Frozen” to Push Global Warming Propaganda to Kids

A top State Department official told the Arctic Frontiers conference in Norway that he’s proposing using characters from Disney’s “Frozen” to teach children about climate change.
Adm. Robert Papp, the US special representative for the Arctic, believes he can make young children more aware of the disastrous effects of man-made global warming by enlisting the help of Disney and their popular “Frozen” characters. 
You can’t be in this business and not see Frozen, Papp said, adding that he has watched the movie at least 20 times thanks to his two young granddaughters. A staffer from his office came up with the idea for Disney to create public service announcements focused on the Arctic starring the movie’s main characters: Elsa, a princess with powers over ice and snow; her younger sister, Anna; a reindeer named Sven; and Olaf, a talking snowman who loves summer.

“I said, you’ve taught an entire generation about the Arctic,” Papp said, describing his exchange with the Disney executive. “Unfortunately, the Arctic that you’ve taught them about is a fantasy kingdom in Norway where everything is nice. What we really need to do is educate the American youth about the plight of the polar bear, about the thawing tundra, about Alaskan villages that run the risk of falling into the sea because of the lack of sea ice protecting their shores.”

You can always count on the government to want to take something innocent and popular and use it to push a political agenda. But this time, that agenda is being forced on young children.
As it turns out, the pitch didn’t go over too well with Disney executives.