Tag Archives: power

Transcript: Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes speech

The text of Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes after accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award, according to a transcript provided by Hollywood Foreign Press Association:

Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you. This town, thank you. I love you all, but you’ll have to forgive me. I’ve lost my voice in screaming and lamentation this weekend, and I have lost my mind sometime earlier this year. So I have to read. Thank you, Hollywood Foreign Press, just to pick up on what Hugh Laurie said. You and all of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it: Hollywood, foreigners and the press.

But who are we? And what is Hollywood anyway? It’s just a bunch of people from other places. I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of New Jersey. Viola was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina, came up in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Sarah Paulson was born in Florida, raised by a single mom in Brooklyn. Sarah Jessica Parker was one of seven or eight kids from Ohio. Amy Adams was born in Vicenza, Veneto, Italy. And Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem. Where are their birth certificates? And the beautiful Ruth Negga was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, raised in — no — in Ireland, I do believe, and she’s here nominated for playing a small-town girl from Virginia. Ryan Gosling, like all the nicest people, is Canadian. And Dev Patel was born in Kenya, raised in London, is here for playing an Indian raised in Tasmania. So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners, and if we kick them all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.

They gave me three seconds to say this. So an actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like, and there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that, breathtaking, compassionate work. But there was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hook in my heart not because it was good. It was — there was nothing good about it, but it was effective, and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart, and I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing.

Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence insights violence. When the powerful use definition to bully others, we all lose. Ok. Go on with that thing. OK. This brings me to the press. We need the principal press to hold power to account to call them on the carpet for every outrage.

That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedom in our Constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists because we are going to need them going forward and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.

One more thing. Once when I was standing around on the set one day, whining about something, you know, we were going to work through supper or the long hours or whatever, Tommy Lee Jones said to me, “Isn’t it such a privilege, Meryl, just to be an actor?” Yeah, it is, and we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy. We should all be very proud of the work Hollywood honors here tonight. As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia said to me once, “Take your broken heart. Make it into art.” Thank you, friend.

Things to know about the new Wisconsin legislative session

Wisconsin legislators will start their next two-year session with plenty of pomp and circumstance Tuesday but the honeymoon will end quickly as lawmakers dive into a thicket of divisive budget issues.

Some key things to know about the upcoming session:

MEET THE NEW BOSSES, SAME AS THE OLD

Republicans rode President-elect Donald Trump’s momentum to their largest majorities in both the Senate and Assembly in decades. The GOP goes into the session with a 64-35 advantage in the Assembly, their largest since 1957, and a 20-13 edge in the Senate, their largest since 1971. Republicans re-elected Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald to their leadership posts days after the results came in. Republicans have now held complete control of state government since Gov. Scott Walker took office in 2011. The party will be free again to pass whatever it can agree upon internally.

INAUGURATION DAY

The session kicks off Tuesday with legislators taking the oath of office. The day is full-fledged production, complete with corsages for lawmakers, prayers and judges swearing them in. Then come handshakes, back-slapping and photos with family members and other well-wishers.

WHEN WILL THE GLOVES COME OFF?

Almost immediately. Republican Gov. Scott Walker gives his State of the State speech a week later, on Jan. 10.

Governors typically use the speech to outline their priorities and introduce new programs and initiatives, sending ripples cascading across the state.

In February he’s expected to introduce the executive version of the 2017-19 state budget.

Deliberations on the budget will consume the Legislature through mid-summer.

If the State of the State speech is a thunderstorm, the budget is a hurricane as both parties try to fund key constituencies or protect them from cuts.

BUT IF REPUBLICANS ARE IN CHARGE, WILL THE BUDGET BATTLE BE THAT BAD?

The stage is already set for GOP infighting.

The hottest topic will be how to fund road projects. The state pays for roads with the transportation fund, which is built on gas tax revenue and vehicle registration fees.

The fund faces a $1 billion shortfall but Walker, who faces re-election in 2018, has said he won’t raise the gas tax or fees to make up the difference.

Instead he has said his budget will delay major projects and rely on borrowing.

Assembly Republicans have said the governor’s plan is a short-term political solution. They say all potential revenue increases should be on the table, including raising the gas tax and imposing tolls.

The governor also has promised to increase funding for the University of Wisconsin System after cutting it by $250 million and extending an in-state tuition freeze in the last budget.

But the system has become a popular punching bag for Republican lawmakers, raising questions about what, if anything, the system will end up getting.

Some GOP lawmakers are already saying the system doesn’t deserve any additional money as long as a course on racism called “The Problem of Whiteness” is offered as planned this spring at UW-Madison.

WHAT ELSE IS ON THE GOP AGENDA?

Budget deliberations will consume lawmakers until mid-summer, when the Legislature’s budget committee finalizes revisions and kicks it to the full Senate and Assembly for approval. After that, anything could happen.

Some Republicans have talked about preventing candidates with no chance of winning from requesting election recounts after the Green Party’s Jill Stein forced a pre-Christmas recount of Wisconsin’s presidential election that changed nothing. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has talked about limiting early voting times and locations, even though a federal judge struck down attempts to do just that last session.

Republicans also are expected to resurrect failed bills forcing transgender students to use bathrooms that correspond to their gender at birth, and to allow concealed weapons in college classrooms and on school grounds.

Lawmakers also could be forced to redraw their district boundaries after a federal judge in November tossed out GOP-drawn lines. They also could be forced to grapple with the fallout if Trump repeals President Barack Obama’s health care reforms.

KEY DATES

State of the State speech: Jan. 10.

First floor session: Jan. 17.

Governor’s budget introduction: Late February.

Final legislative budget approval: Late June or early July.

Last scheduled floor session: May 9, 2018.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED:

The Wisconsin Legislature’s website, allows visitors to track bills’ progress. It also offers a list of all legislators, their phone numbers and their email addresses.

Wind could power 20 percent of world’s electric by 2030

Wind power could supply as much as 20 percent of the world’s total electricity by 2030 due to dramatic cost reductions and pledges to curb climate change, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) said in a report released in Beijing on Tuesday.

If last year’s Paris climate accord leads to a worldwide commitment to the decarbonization of the electricity sector, total wind power capacity could reach as much as 2,110 gigawatts (GW) by then, nearly five times its current level, the industry group said.

Such an increase in capacity would involve annual investment of 200 billion euros ($224 billion) and would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 3.3 billion tonnes per year, it said.

It forecast that China’s share of the total would reach 666.5 GW, more than quadrupling its current capacity.

The group said total global wind power installations stood at 433 GW by the end of last year, up 17 percent from a year earlier, and are set to rise by around 60 GW in 2016.

Much of the increase was driven by China, which accounted for 145.4 GW at the end of 2015, 33.6 percent of the total. China built 30.8 GW of new wind power capacity over the year, the highest annual addition by any country, the wind council said.

But the pace of capacity additions could fall in 2016, with China still struggling to find enough transmission capacity to take on the huge numbers of new turbines being built.

China’s energy regulator said in July that 21 percent of all wind-generated electricity was wasted in the first half of the year, due also to slowing electricity demand growth as well as the completion of new coal-fired power plants, which made it harder for wind projects to access the grid.

Wasted power – known as curtailment – stood at more than 40 percent in the distant northwestern provinces of Gansu and Xinjiang, where grid capacity is relatively weak, the regulator said.

The wind council said curtailment remained a “major challenge” for China, but the situation was likely to improve over the medium term as regulators work to solve the transmission bottlenecks.

Chicago teen’s death shines light on police code of silence

For more than a year after an officer shot and killed a black teen named Laquan McDonald, the Chicago Police Department had video footage that raised serious doubts about whether other officers at the scene tried in their reports to cover up what prosecutors now contend was murder.

Not until 15 months later was one of those officers and a detective who concluded the shooting was justified put on desk duty. At least eight other officers failed to recount the same scene that unfolded on the video. All of them remain on the street, according to the department.

The lack of swift action illustrates the difficulty of confronting the “code of silence” that has long been associated with police in Chicago and elsewhere. The obstacles include disciplinary practices that prevent the police chief himself from firing problem officers and a labor contract that prevents officers from being held accountable if a video surfaces that contradicts their testimony.

“If they are not going to analyze officers’ reports and compare them to objective evidence like the video, why would the officers ever stop lying?” asked Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago law professor who helped force the city to release the video.

Of the eight officers, six said they did not see who fired and three depicted McDonald as more threatening than he appeared. One claimed the teen tried to get up with a knife still in his hand. The footage clearly showed him falling down and lying motionless on the pavement.

Officer Jason Van Dyke, who emptied his entire 16-round magazine into McDonald, is now awaiting trial on first-degree murder charges. He has been suspended without pay while the department tries to fire him.

City officials say they are cracking down on traditions associated with the code and even questioning applicants for police superintendent about how they would stop officers from lying to protect colleagues.

Chicago isn’t the only major city where officers sworn to tell the truth are suspected of covering for each other. In Los Angeles, three sheriff’s deputies were convicted last year of beating a handcuffed jail visitor and then trying to cover it up. In that case, a plea bargain with two former deputies helped prosecutors expose what they said was a code of silence.

The head of Chicago’s police union dismisses talk of a code.

“It’s not 1954 anymore,” Dean Angelo said. “With cameras everywhere, in squad cars, on everyone’s cellphone … officers aren’t going to make a conscious effort to engage in conduct that puts their own livelihoods at risk.”

But the scrutiny that followed McDonald’s death reveals a system that makes it difficult to fire problem officers and reduces their punishment or delays it for months or years after their reports are exposed as lies.

The code of silence also figured into another video: footage of off-duty officer Anthony Abbate pummeling a bartender. Officers who responded to the 911 call did not include in their reports the bartender’s contention that she was attacked by an officer named Tony, according to testimony in federal court. A jury in 2012 awarded her $850,000 and concluded there was a code of silence.

Like other police departments, Chicago’s police force has long insisted that it doesn’t tolerate dishonesty. When allegations surface about officers lying in a report, they are stripped of their police powers and assigned to desk duty pending the outcome of an internal probe, department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.

If the investigation determines the officer was, in fact, dishonest, the department says it moves, without exception, to have that person fired.

However, unlike New York, Baltimore and other cities, Chicago’s police superintendent cannot independently dismiss an officer. That decision belongs to the Chicago Police Board, whose nine civilian members are appointed by the mayor.

It is not unusual for the board to reject recommendations of the superintendent and the city’s Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates police shootings.

That happened when former Superintendent Garry McCarthy recommended sergeant and a lieutenant be fired for lying in their reports about the accidental discharge of pepper spray in a restaurant. The board agreed that the two had lied but decided to suspend them each for 30 days.

Critics say officers are emboldened to cover up their own misdeeds and those of others because the code extends to City Hall. In the case of the beaten bartender, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s administration responded to the verdict by asking a judge to throw out the jury’s finding because it would set a precedent for potentially costly future lawsuits.

The police union contract also plays a role. It includes a provision that officers who are not shown video of alleged misconduct before being interviewed cannot be disciplined for lying about the recorded events.

“All of this sends a message to police who abuse their police powers that they can operate with impunity,” said the Rev. Marshall Hatch, a prominent local minister.

The issue came to a head in the McDonald case. Weeks after the shooting, Futterman, the law professor, and a journalist publicly urged the city to release the video. A few months later, a detective concluded that the shooting was justifiable homicide by an officer trying to protect his own life, and that the dashboard camera video was consistent with witness accounts.

Emails between City Hall and the police department and others make it clear that the mayor’s office was aware of concerns about the officers’ truthfulness. But there is no indication in the emails that Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office demanded or even suggested that someone compare the video with the police reports. Instead, Emanuel’s office chose to wait for the results of federal and local probes, mayoral spokesman Adam Collins.

Guglielmi said that the McDonald case highlights the need for the department to pay closer attention to any discrepancies between videos and written police reports.

Hatch is skeptical, pointing out that not only are all the officers still getting paid, but Van Dyke himself drew a paycheck while working for 13 months until he was charged.

“Nobody ever said, ‘Wait a minute, these officers who filed reports inconsistent with the facts are all still working, including the officer who shot the kid 16 times,”” he said. “Accountability in cases of police misconduct, it just doesn’t exist.” 

Cash for Cruz: Billionaires helped Cruz rise in GOP presidential bid

Four of America’s wealthiest businessmen laid the foundation for Ted Cruz’s now-surging Republican presidential campaign and have redefined the role of political donors.

With just over a week until voters get their first say, the 45-year-old Texas senator known as a conservative warrior has been ascendant. The $36 million committed last year by these donor families is now going toward broadcast and online advertisements, direct mailings and get-out-the-vote efforts in early primary states.

The donors’ super political action committees sponsored weekend rallies in Iowa featuring Cruz and conservative personality Glenn Beck. The state holds the leadoff caucuses on Feb. 1.

The long-believing benefactors are New York hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, Texas natural gas billionaires Farris and Dan Wilks, and private-equity partner Toby Neugebauer. They honed their plan to help Cruz before he began his steady rise in polls — before he even announced his presidential bid in March.

“No one wants to lose,” Neugebauer told The Associated Press when asked why he and others bet big on Cruz. “We didn’t miss that an outsider would win. I think we’ve nailed it.”

The groundwork laid by Neugebauer and other major donors began roughly two years ago, first in a casual conversation with Cruz at a donor’s home in Palm Beach, Florida, then in a more formal way over the 2014 Labor Day weekend at Neugebauer’s ranch in East Texas.

That October, big-data firm Cambridge Analytica — in which Mercer is an investor — began working to identify potential Cruz voters and develop messages that would motivate them. Alexander Nix, the company’s chief executive officer, said the importance of this early work cannot be overstated. He credits Cruz for understanding this.

“Money never buys you time,” Nix said, drawing from his experiences with campaigns worldwide. “Too often clients will come to you just before an election and expect you to work miracles. But you cannot roll back the clock.”

Key donors soon came up with a novel arrangement: Each family would control its own super PAC, but the groups would work together as a single entity called Keep the Promise. They keep in touch through weekly strategy phone calls.

That’s not how super PACs usually work. More typically, multiple donors turn over their money and leave the political decisions to professional strategists. For example, Jeb Bush’s super PAC counts more than two dozen million-dollar donors.

For Cruz, the pool of really big donors is far more concentrated: Mercer gave $11 million, Neugebauer gave $10 million, and the Wilks brothers and their wives together gave $15 million.

That level of support has opened Cruz to criticism that donors are influencing his policies, whether on abortion, energy or the gold standard.

Ethanol advocates point to his oil and gas donors as the reason he wants to discontinue that government subsidy for the corn-based fuel. Cruz and the donors have dismissed that as nonsense. His campaign cites as evidence Cruz’s desire to end handouts to all parts of the energy industry.

Neugebauer, whose private equity investment firm has investments in shale, moved to Puerto Rico in 2014. He said he relocated for his children’s education, but there are tax breaks as well.

Mercer is a former computer programmer and co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies, one of the country’s largest hedge funds. The Wilks brothers are relative newcomers to the world of political donations, having made billions in 2011 by selling their company, which manufactures equipment for the hydraulic fracturing of natural gas.

Although these donors set aside their millions for Cruz 10 months ago, it’s only now that the money is making its way to the 2016 race in a major way.

Since mid-December, the Keep the Promise super PACs have documented about $4 million in independent expenditures to help Cruz or attack other candidates — most often Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, federal election records show.

The super PACs have been identifying and connecting with Cruz voters through digital ads and door-knocking, and recently began a multimillion-dollar TV ad campaign. A Keep the Promise van tailed the Cruz campaign bus as it made its way through Iowa last week. Super PAC workers handed out thousands of “Choose Cruz” yard signs.

For the biggest donors, it’s no surprise that Cruz seems to be well-positioned heading into the primaries. In mid-July, Keep the Promise posted on its website a slide-show presentation called “Can He Win?” The document predicted it would be “very difficult for Establishment to destroy the conservative challenger.” 

A state by state look at renewable energy requirements

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have requirements that utilities get a certain amount of their electricity from renewable sources. Nine additional states have goals for renewable energy, while a dozen others have no targets.

A state-by-state look at renewable energy policies.

WISCONSIN

State law sets a target of 10 percent of all electricity coming from renewable sources this year. Requirements vary for each utility, but the amount of renewable energy must be at least 6 percentage points above its 2001-2003 average.

ALABAMA

No renewable energy standard.

ALASKA

A bill passed in 2010 sets a goal, but not a requirement, for Alaska to receive half its electricity from renewable and alternative energy sources by 2025.

ARIZONA

Public utilities must get 6 percent of their electricity from renewable sources in 2016, gradually rising annually to 15 percent by 2025.

ARKANSAS

No renewable energy standard.

CALIFORNIA

Utilities must get one-third of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020. That requirement rises to 40 percent by 2024, 45 percent by 2027 and half of all electricity by 2030.

COLORADO

Utility companies currently must get 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources, rising to 30 percent by 2020. The standards are lower for electric cooperatives and municipal suppliers, topping out at 10 or 20 percent by 2020 depending on their size.

CONNECTICUT

Utilities must get 21 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources in 2016, gradually rising annually to 27 percent by 2020.

DELAWARE

Utilities must derive 13 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources this year, gradually rising annually until reaching 25 percent in 2025.

FLORIDA

No renewable energy standard.

GEORGIA

No renewable energy standard.

HAWAII

Utility companies must provide 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources this year. That requirement rises to 30 percent in 2020, 40 percent in 2030 and 70 percent in 2040. By 2045, all electricity must come from renewable sources.

IDAHO

No renewable energy standard.

ILLINOIS

Utilities are required to get at least 10 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources this year, gradually rising annually to 25 percent by 2025.

INDIANA

Public utilities can receive regulatory approval for larger earnings if they agree to obtain at least 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025. As much as 30 percent of that target can come from clean-burning coal facilities, nuclear power and natural gas generators that displace coal-fired plants.

IOWA

The state adopted the nation’s first renewable energy law in 1983, requiring investor-owned utilities to have 105 megawatts of generating capacity from renewable sources. Utilities have far exceeded that threshold.

KANSAS

A state law had required at least 20 percent of a utility’s peak demand for electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020. But an amendment passed this year made that a voluntary goal.

KENTUCKY

No renewable energy standard.

LOUISIANA

No renewable energy standard.

MAINE

At least 40 percent of total retail electricity sales must come from renewable energy sources by 2017.

MARYLAND

Utilities must comply with a gradually increasing standard that requires at least 20 percent of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2022.

MASSACHUSETTS

Utilities must derive 11 percent of their electricity from renewable sources in 2016, gradually rising to 15 percent by 2020 and growing by an additional 1 percent annually thereafter.

MICHIGAN

Utilities must get 10 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources as of this year.

MINNESOTA

Most utilities must provide 17 percent of their electricity from renewable sources in 2016, rising to 21.5 percent in 2020 and 26.5 percent in 2025. The state’s largest utility faces a higher standard of 25 percent from renewable sources by 2016 and 31.5 percent by 2020.

MISSISSIPPI

No renewable energy standard.

MISSOURI

Investor-owned utilities currently must get 5 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, rising to 10 percent in 2018 and 15 percent beginning in 2021.

MONTANA

Public utilities must get at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources as of this year.

NEBRASKA

No renewable energy standard.

NEVADA

Utilities currently must derive 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources. That requirement rises to 22 percent in 2020 and 25 percent in 2025.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Utilities must get 16.7 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources in 2016, gradually rising annually to 24.8 percent in 2025.

NEW JERSEY

Utilities must get more than 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020.

NEW MEXICO

Public utilities currently must provide at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, rising to 20 percent by 2020. Rural electric cooperatives face a lesser standard of 5 percent renewable sources this year, rising to 10 percent by 2020.

NEW YORK

Utilities must get 29 percent of their electricity from renewable sources as of this year. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has set a goal of renewable sources comprising half of all electricity by 2030.

NORTH CAROLINA

Utilities currently must provide 6 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, rising to 10 percent in 2018. For investor-owned utilities, that rises to 12.5 percent in 2021.

NORTH DAKOTA

State law sets a voluntary goal of supplying 10 percent of electricity from renewable sources by this year.

OHIO

A state law had required utilities to get 25 percent of their electricity from alternative sources by 2025, with half of that coming from renewable sources and half from improved technologies such as clean-burning coal or nuclear facilities. But a 2014 law put a hold on the gradual implementation of those standards, meaning the renewable energy portion of that requirement will remain at 2.5 percent in 2016.

OKLAHOMA

State law sets a goal, but not a requirement, for 15 percent of electrical generating capacity to come from renewable sources as of this year.

OREGON

Large utilities currently must get 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, rising to 20 percent in 2020 and 25 percent in 2025. Smaller utilities face a renewable requirement of either 10 percent or 5 percent by 2025, depending on their size.

PENNSYLVANIA

Utilities currently must get 13.7 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, gradually rising annually to 18 percent by 2021. A portion of that can come from clean-burning coal facilities.

RHODE ISLAND

The state Public Utilities Commission delayed a scheduled increase this year in its renewable energy standards, citing a potentially inadequate supply. That held the requirement at 8.5 percent – instead of 10 percent – of electricity coming from renewable sources.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Utilities may choose to participate in an energy program that includes at least 2 percent of their electricity coming from in-state renewable energy facilities by 2021.

SOUTH DAKOTA

State law sets a voluntary goal of 10 percent of electricity coming from renewable sources and conservation efforts as of this year.

TENNESSEE

No renewable energy standard.

TEXAS

In 1999, the state set a target of having 5,880 megawatts of generating capacity from renewable energy by this year, with a goal of 10,000 megawatts by 2025. That long-range goal already has been exceeded.

UTAH

State law sets a target for utilities to provide about 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025, if it is cost-effective to do so.

VERMONT

A law enacted this year converted Vermont’s renewable energy targets to requirements, meaning utilities will have to get 55 percent of their electricity from renewable sources in 2017. That will rise periodically until it reaches 75 percent in 2032.

VIRGINIA

Investor-owned utilities have a voluntary 2016 state goal for their renewable energy to equal 7 percent of their electricity sales in 2007. That goal rises to 12 percent in 2022 and 15 percent in 2025.

WASHINGTON

Large utilities must obtain at least 9 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2016 and 15 percent by 2020.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Utilities must provide an amount of electricity from renewable sources that increases each year, reaching 20 percent in 2020.

WEST VIRGINIA

Lawmakers this year repealed a 2009 law that had set a goal for large investor-owned utilities to get 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources in 2015 and 25 percent by 2025. The repealed law had included certain coal and natural gas facilities in its description of renewable sources.

WYOMING

No renewable energy standard.

Cracks in nuclear reactors prompt call for worldwide inspections

The discovery of thousands of additional cracks in critical components of two Belgian nuclear reactors prompted Greenpeace to call for immediate checks of nuclear power plants worldwide. 

The cracks were found in the steel nuclear reactor pressure vessels in nuclear reactors Doel 3 and Tihange 2 in Belgium. The vessels contain highly radioactive nuclear fuel cores and the failure of the components can cause catastrophic nuclear accidents, according to Greenpeace.

On Feb. 13, two leading material scientists announced that the pervasive and unexpected cracking could be related to corrosion from normal operation, with potential implications for reactors worldwide.

Responding, Greenpeace Belgium energy campaigner Eloi Glorieux, said, “What we are seeing in Belgium is potentially devastating for nuclear reactors globally due to the increased risk of a catastrophic failure. Nuclear regulators worldwide must require reactor inspections as soon as possible, and no later than the next scheduled maintenance shutdown. If damage is discovered, the reactors must remain shut down until and unless safety and pressure vessel integrity can be guaranteed. The nuclear industry, already in crisis, is faced with an aging nuclear reactor fleet at increasing risk of severe disaster.”

In reaction to the findings, the director-general of the Belgian nuclear regulator of the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control has said that this could be a problem for the entire nuclear industry globally. He added that the solution is to begin the careful inspection of 430 nuclear power plants worldwide.

Problems were initially discovered in the summer of 2012 and both the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 reactors have been shut down since March 2014, after additional tests revealed advanced embrittlement of the steel of the test sample. The integrity of the pressure vessel must be absolute due to the radioactive releases that would result if this component were to fail.

As nuclear reactors age, radiation causes pressure vessel damage, or embrittlement, of the steel. According to the statements of the two materials scientists on Feb 13, the damage in the Belgian reactors may be partially caused by a problem resulting from the migration of hydrogen into cracks in the steel liner of the vessel — exacerbating and expanding that cracking. Greenpeace said it appears that hydrogen from the water within the vessel that cools the reactor core is getting inside the liner, reacting and destroying the pressure vessel from within.

FANC has issued a statement confirming that the additional tests conducted in 2014 revealed 13,047 cracks in Doel 3 and 3,149 in Tihange 2.

On Feb. 15, the nuclear reactor operator, announced that it would be prepared to “sacrifice” one of its reactors to conduct further destructive tests of the reactor pressure vessel for research. Several years ago, the operator dismissed the cracks as being the result of manufacturing problems during construction in the late 1970s in the Netherlands, but still failed to table evidence for this assumption.

The Belgian regulator also stated that the most likely cause was manufacturing, but could not prove it and added that it may be due to other causes.

The recent announcements of the materials scientists, indicate that this problem could be far beyond manufacturing.

If confirmed, it means that the safety of every nuclear reactor on the planet could be significantly compromised.

There are 435 commercial nuclear reactors worldwide, with an average age of 28.5 years in mid 2014. Of these, 170 reactors — 44 percent — have been operating for 30 years or more and 39 reactors have operated for more than 40 years.

“As we approach the fourth anniversary of the Fukushima-daiichi nuclear disaster, evidence has emerged that demands immediate action to prevent another catastrophe,” said Glorieux. “Thousands of previously unknown cracks in critical components of two reactors point to a potentially endemic and significant safety problem for reactors globally. Continuing to operate any reactor with such cracking would be an absolutely unacceptable risk to public safety. Greenpeace demands detailed inspections of all nuclear reactors worldwide, as conducted in Belgium, and the public release and scrutiny of the results. Any reactor with such cracking must be kept offline, until and unless the cracking is understood and safety is guaranteed. Anything less would be insane given the risk of a severe nuclear accident.”

Pentagon documents surge in reports of sexual assaults

Reports by members of the military of sexual assaults jumped by an unprecedented 50 percent last year, in what Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel declared a “clear threat” to both male and female servicemembers’ lives and well-being.

The latest numbers reflected an aggressive campaign by the Pentagon to persuade victims to come forward, but Hagel and others said they need to do more to get men to report assaults — a challenge in a military culture that values strength. Hagel said an estimated half of sexual-assault victims in the military are men, yet only 14 percent of reported assaults involve male victims.

Hagel told a news conference he has ordered Pentagon officials to increase their efforts to get male victims to report sexual abuse and also has asked the military services to review their alcohol sales and policies. In as many as two-thirds of reported sexual assault cases, alcohol is involved.

“We have to fight the cultural stigmas that discourage reporting and be clear that sexual assault does not occur because a victim is weak, but rather because an offender disregards our values and the law,” Hagel said.

Officials said they believe the number of male victims is greatly under-reported because of anonymous surveys conducted among military members. A 2012 survey found that about 26,000 servicemembers said they were victims of some type of unwanted sexual contact or assault. A key finding in that survey was that, in sheer numbers, more men than women said they had been assaulted.

About 6.8 percent of women surveyed said they were assaulted and 1.2 percent of the men. But there are vastly more men in the military; by the raw numbers, a bit more than 12,000 women said they were assaulted, compared with nearly 14,000 men.

Defense officials said that male victims often worry that complaining will make people think they are weak and trigger questions about their sexual orientation. In most cases, however, sexual orientation has nothing to do with the assault and it’s more an issue of power or abuse.

“There is still a misperception that this is a women’s issue and women’s crime,” said Nate Galbreath, the senior executive adviser for the Pentagon’s sexual assault prevention office. “It’s disheartening that we have such a differential between the genders and how they are choosing to report.”

The military, Galbreath said, needs to get the message out.

“It’s not the damsel in distress; it’s your fellow service member that might need you to step in,” he said, adding that troops need to treat such a request for help like any other need for aid, just like on the battlefield.

While the number of reported assaults shot up sharply in 2013, defense officials said that based on survey data and other information, they believe the increase was largely due to victims feeling more comfortable coming forward. Under the military’s definition, a sexual assault can be anything from unwanted sexual contact, such as inappropriate touching or grabbing, to sodomy and rape.

Separately on Thursday, the U.S. Department of Education announced it was going to investigative 55 colleges and universities for the way they handle sexual abuse allegations by their students.

As for the military, Hagel said he was ordering six initiatives, including the review of alcohol sales and policies. He says that review must address the risks of alcohol being used as a weapon by predators who might ply a victim with drinks before attacking.

“Sexual assault is a clear threat to the lives and the well-being of the women and men who serve our country in uniform. It destroys the bonds of trust and confidence that lie at the heart of our armed forces,” said Hagel.

The plans call for the military services to step up efforts to encourage troops to intervene in assault situations and work with military bases and local communities to better train bar workers and promote more responsible alcohol sales.

Overall, there were 5,061 reports of sexual abuse filed in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, compared with 3,374 in 2012, for a 50 percent increase. About 10 percent of the 2013 reports involved incidents that occurred before the victims joined the military, up from just 4 percent in 2012.

Over the past two years, the military services have tried to increase awareness. Phone numbers and contact information for sexual assault prevention officers are plastered across military bases, including inside the doors of bathroom stalls. And top military officers have traveled to bases around the world speaking out on the issue.

Officials said prosecutions also have increased. Galbreath said the military was able to take some action against 73 percent of accused people who were subject to the military justice system. In 2012 it was 66 percent. Some cases involved alleged assailants who were not in the military so were not subject to commander’s actions or military courts.

Sexual assault has been a front-burner issue for the Pentagon, Congress and the White House over the past year, triggering Capitol Hill hearings and persistent questions about how effectively the military was preventing and prosecuting assaults and how well it was treating the victims. Fueling outrage have been high-profile assault cases and arrests, including incidents involving senior commanders, sexual assault prevention officers and military trainers.

At the same time, the military has long struggled to get victims to report sexual assault in a stern military culture that emphasizes rank, loyalty and toughness. Some victims have complained they were afraid to report assaults to ranking officers for fear of retribution, or said that their initial complaints were rebuffed or ignored.

‘X-Men’ director: Abuse suit a shakedown

The director of the upcoming “X-Men” film has denied allegations contained in a lawsuit that he raped an aspiring actor and model in 1999 and called the claims a shakedown.

Bryan Singer wrote in a statement released Thursday that he was avoiding promotional events for his upcoming film “X-Men: Days of Future Past” to avoid distracting from the movie and the work of its actors and crew.

“The allegations against me are outrageous, vicious and completely false,” Singer wrote. “I do not want these fictitious claims to divert any attention from `X-Men: Days of Future Past.’ “

The statement was released a week after Singer was sued in Hawaii by Michael Egan III, a former aspiring model and actor, who claims the director sexually abused him during a trip in Hawaii in 1999. Egan has said Singer abused him when he was as young as 15 years old at a home in Los Angeles, but his case only focused on the alleged abuse in Hawaii.

Singer’s attorney Marty Singer has said the director wasn’t in Hawaii when Egan claims he was abused.

“I promise when this situation is over, the facts will show this to be the sick twisted shakedown it is,” Bryan Singer wrote in his statement.

Egan’s attorney Jeff Herman said Singer’s denials would not affect his pursuit of the case. “We have a good-faith belief in the allegations, and we will litigate this,” Herman said.

Egan has also sued three other entertainment industry figures — two former television executives and a theater producer — for substantially similar claims.

“None of the defendants in Michael Egan’s cases have admitted to abusing him,” Herman said. “I’ve gotten other threats from the other lawyers, which I find interesting. I’m not deterred from bringing these cases forward.”

The lawsuits were filed in Hawaii under a law that temporarily suspends the statute of limitations in civil sex-abuse cases. None of the men has been criminally charged, and the statute of limitations for any such charges has passed.

In order to file the cases, Egan had to be evaluated by a psychologist who signed a notarized “Certificate of Merit” that includes facts and opinions supporting an opinion that he was sexually abused and had a psychological or physical injury. The certificate detailing Egan’s allegations against Singer has been filed under seal.

Egan claims he was lured into a sex ring run by a former digital entertainment company executive with promises of auditions for acting, modeling and commercial jobs. He was put on the company’s payroll as an actor and forced to have sex with adult men at parties within Hollywood’s entertainment industry, he says.

The Associated Press does not typically name victims of sex abuse, but it is naming Egan because he is speaking publicly about his allegations.

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Probe could complicate Rick Perry’s prospects in 2016

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has spent 14 years in office vanquishing nearly all who dared confront him: political rivals, moms against mandatory vaccines for sixth graders, a coyote in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But with eight months left on the job and a decision to make about the 2016 presidential race, the long-serving governor known for his Texas swagger is now the focus of a grand jury investigation that could cause more difficulty than any adversary has.

What should have been a political victory lap for Perry could now wind up in a final tussle that has implications for his political future.

“Gov. Perry is used to being challenged every step of the way in almost every issue. In that sense, this is not significantly different,”said Ray Sullivan, Perry’s onetime chief of staff and a former spokesman. “This just comes with the territory.”

A judge has seated a grand jury in Austin to consider whether Perry, who is weighing another run for the White House, abused his power when he carried out a threat to veto $7.5 million in state funding for public corruption prosecutors last summer.

Aides to Perry say he legally exercised his veto power. Others say Perry was abusing his state office and is finally getting his comeuppance.

The state Public Integrity Unit operates under Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat who has been the subject of Republican grumbling that the office investigates through a partisan lens. Lehmberg, who took office in 2009, was convicted of drunken-driving last year and filmed in a jailhouse video berating officers following her arrest.

Perry called on Lehmberg to resign and torpedoed the funding when she didn’t.

Craig McDonald, whose public watchdog group filed a complaint that a Texas judge took seriously enough to hire a special prosecutor, said the veto embodied a brash governor who’s gotten too accustomed to dictating to others.

“He threatened her in broad daylight just like it was high noon,” said McDonald, the executive director of Texans for Public Justice. “I think it’s indicative of perhaps someone in the office a little too long.”

Lehmberg, who served about half of a 45-day jail sentence, has called Perry’s attempts to remove her partisan. The public corruption unit, which prosecuted former Republican U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in 2010 on charges of laundering campaign funds, now runs on a smaller budget with local taxpayer funds and a scaled-back staff.

Special Prosecutor Michael McCrum has said he has specific concerns about the governor’s conduct but refused to elaborate. Perry’s office has hired a high-profile defense attorney, David Botsford of Austin, who is being paid $450 hourly and with public funds.

The grand jury is impaneled for three months. In the original complaint, McDonald accused Perry of breaking laws related to coercion of a public servant and abuse of official capacity.

Perry never lost an election until his run for the Republican presidential nomination flamed out in 2012. If he makes another bid upon leaving office in January, he’s positioned to boast of an even more robust Texas economy and to project a slightly toned down image: he now wears a pair of thick-framed glasses and seldom slides on his cowboy boots anymore.

But the grand jury probe could draw attention back to more contentious issues, even if Perry is not indicted. And if the panel does pursue charges, “that would be very, very hard to overcome, particularly because voters already have a perception of him in their mind, and right now he’s been busy cleaning that perception up,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist in Washington. “It would put him on life support as a presidential candidate.”

A Texas governor hasn’t been indicted since 1917. Democrat James E. Ferguson was eventually convicted on 10 charges, impeached and removed from office for vetoing funding for the University of Texas after objecting to some faculty members.

Some legal experts see the allegations against Perry as shaky.

“If the governor were to pressure someone to not prosecute someone, that would be some violation of some clear legal duty. Pressuring them to quit? That’s a little less clear,” said David Kwok, a law professor at the University of Houston.