Home / Politics / Saturday Snippets: Germany marks fall of Berlin Wall; solar soars; FL GOP goes after sunscreen ban

Saturday Snippets: Germany marks fall of Berlin Wall; solar soars; FL GOP goes after sunscreen ban

West Berliners crowd in front of the Berlin Wall early 11 November 1989 as they watch East German border guards demolishing a section of the wall in order to open a new crossing point between East and West Berlin, near the Potsdamer Square. Two days before, Gunter Schabowski, the East Berlin Communist party boss, declared that starting from midnight, East Germans would be free to leave the country, without permission, at any point along the border, including the crossing-points through the Wall in Berlin. The Berlin concrete wall was built by the East German government in August 1961 to seal off East Berlin from the part of the city occupied by the three main Western powers to prevent mass illegal immigration to the West. According to the "August 13 Association" which specialises in the history of the Berlin Wall, at least 938 people - 255 in Berlin alone - died, shot by East German border guards, attempting to flee to West Berlin or West Germany. (Photo by GERARD MALIE / AFP)        (Photo credit should read GERARD MALIE/AFP via Getty Images)

West Berliners crowd in front of the Berlin Wall early November 11, 1989, as they watch East German border guards demolishing a section of the wall in order to open a new crossing point between East and West Berlin, near the Potsdamer Square. Two days before, Gunter Schabowski, the East Berlin Communist party boss, declared that starting from midnight, East Germans would be free to leave the country, without permission, at any point along the border, including the crossing-points through the Wall in Berlin. The Berlin concrete wall was built by the East German government in August 1961 to seal off East Berlin from the part of the city occupied by the three main Western powers to prevent mass illegal immigration to the West.

Leaders from Germany, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic commemorate the opening of the Berlin Wall. Three decades after the wall was dismantled, the reunited Germany has become the most powerful economic and political entity on the continent. But there are still many critics unhappy with how the socialist economy of East Germany was transformed and absorbed into the capitalist west: 

Axel Klausmeier, head of the Berlin Wall memorial site, recalled the images of delirious Berliners from East and West crying tears of joy as they hugged each other on the evening of Nov. 9, 1989 .

Klausmeier paid tribute to the peaceful protesters in East Germany and neighboring Warsaw Pact countries who took to the streets demanding freedom and democracy, and to then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of reforms.

Former President G.W. Bush says U.S. is experiencing “an unsettling period”: We’ll get through it, he says, but the 73-year-old thinks he might not live long enough to see it happen.

Japanese women on social media focus ire on ban against wearing glasses at work: Trending on Twitter was the hashtag “glasses are forbidden.” Earlier this year, there was social media protest against companies that force women to wear high heels at work. The World Economic Forum’s most recent gender gap report ranked Japan 110 out of 149 nations, putting it far below the other industrialized nations.

Florida Republicans eager to pass state law overriding the Key West ban on coral-killing brands of sunscreen: They are pitting the state’s extremely high rate of skin cancer against the health of the 360-mile long Great Florida Reef. Two chemicals in some major brands of sunscreen are lethal to coral. “Studies have shown that just a tiny drop of sunscreen can kill coral 5 to 20 miles offshore,” said Justin Willig, conservation travel programs coordinator of the Oceanic Society, which recommends alternative “reef-safe” sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium oxide.

MIDDAY TWEET

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FAIR’s Julie Hollar asks why the NYTimes and Thomas Edsall hate the Democratic base:

The New York Times’ Thomas Edsall has an axe to grind, and the paper loves to let him grind it. Edsall is convinced that the Democrats need to move to the center, in ways that will offend much of the party, in order to appeal to the moderate white “swing” voters he believes are the key to a Democratic victory in 2020. […]

Why is Edsall so convinced of this strategy? Well, in this column, he looks at evidence that Trump won because of his “aversion to political correctness,” and concludes that jumping on that train is how Democrats will win back the “swing electorate.”

With prices still dropping, solar continues its growth, reaching into places where wind has held sway (paywall): At Green Tech Media’s Power & Renewables Summit in Austin the last week of October, there was a strong sense that, despite the Trump regime’s tariff policy, solar is still on an strong upward trajectory because of the price curve, the investment tax credit (ITC), the burgeoning integration of solar and battery storage, and the commitment to deadlines for reaching 100% renewables by more than 140 cities, 11 counties, and 11 states, plus D.C., and Puerto Rico. A decade ago, energy developers were presenting new solar-farm projects to utilities at a price around $150 a megawatt-hour. That’s enough to power around 330 average American homes for an hour. In the past 18 months, offers as low as $19-$24 per MW have been made. Experts interviewed at the summit by Emma Foehringer Merchant at GTM2 noted that solar is also getting a boost because of differential federal tax policies for solar and wind. Next year, the production tax credit (PTC) for wind begins a phaseout that ends at zero in 2023, while the decrease in solar’s ITC hits a floor of 10% in 2022. Already, lower solar prices have found an advantage in markets previously dominated by wind, and that can be expected to increase with the end of the PTC. “Solar is becoming an increasingly significant threat to wind development across the world,” said Dan Shreve, Wood Mackenzie’s head of global wind research. “The United States is no different.” 

Meanwhile, a new tech may give cheap “flow batteries” the boost they need:

How do you store renewable energy so it’s there when you need it, even when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing? Giant batteries designed for the electrical grid—called flow batteries, which store electricity in tanks of liquid electrolyte—could be the answer, but so far utilities have yet to find a cost-effective battery that can reliably power thousands of homes throughout a lifecycle of 10 to 20 years.

Now, a battery membrane technology developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) may point to a solution.


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