Trump squirming over Russia sanctions ties White House in knots

Carol Leonnig, national investigative reporter for The Washington Post, talks with Rachel Maddow about Donald Trump’s panicked concern about appearing to sanction Russia more than other countries and turning back his own.

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About The Rachel Maddow Show

Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life – as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise. See More

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This isn’t just a Passive House, it’s a power station

Lark Rise by bere:architects could be the poster child for a Green Technology Revolution.

Most of the time we think of houses as consumers of energy. On TreeHugger we like to promote houses built to the Passive House standard, that need very little energy; lately we have been seeing Passive House Plus designs that are Net Zero, producing in a year as much energy as they consume. Now Justin Bere has designed Lark Rise, which raises the bar to a whole new level; It is not a house but a power station, generating twice as much power as it needs.

Currently it can’t offload that power, as the crappy National Grid in Buckinghamshire, UK is not set up to accept the excess. However after two years of careful monitoring to determine their actual consumption, they are installing a 13kWh battery this spring that will soak it up.

Once the battery has been installed, we will be able to assess how much excess solar-generated energy is available to power an electric car and when the excess power is available for this, and to assess the potential for an electric car to store energy not just for its own use, but for the benefit of the house and its occupants’ needs.

I used to complain that Net-Zero homes wired to the grid put an unfair burden on people that didn’t have the money or the roofs to install solar panels, because they would have to pay for every kWh and the utilities would still have to maintain infrastructure to handle peak loads. (It’s the Duck Curve problem) Batteries change all this; Houses as power stations like Lark Rise actually can buffer the grid, shave those peaks, and significantly reduce demand on the grid. Bere writes:

At the same time as removing peak supply spikes from the grid, the battery will also help eliminate peak demand spikes from the grid. This is important because national peak demand (the ‘triad’ scenarios) is mainly what sets the national power station capacity requirement.

Where warm sunny climates have a duck curve problem every day, more northern climates have a serious seasonal problem where the sun is really low and there isn’t a lot of solar power to be gained, so the utilities have to have enough capacity to keep the heat on. But by going to the Passive House standard, far less energy is needed for heating. Engineer Alan Clarke has designed the mechanical and electrical systems so that the house can meet most or all of its energy needs in winter. In fact, the thermal performance far exceeded projections, using half as much energy as predicted.

Bere has grand ambitions for this concept of house as power station; he sees it as an alternative to building the new nukes that are on the boards in the UK.

Lark Rise demonstrates the potential for the UK government to drive policy initiatives that will save money that will otherwise be required for power stations to supply the alternative business-led scenario. Gentle nudging of market forces can provide a new focus for UK industry to facilitate a joined-up plan to enable the emerging microgrid vision to materialise smoothly – in short, to provide the stimuli needed to create a new Green Technology Revolution.

There are a lot of other things to love in this house; it seems to be just about plastic foam-free with foamed glass under the concrete slab and mineral wool insulation above grade (although the roof is insulated with polyisocyanurate). An electric air-source heat pump serves the underfloor heating, domestic hot water, and heat recovery ventilation.

I recently wrote about how the vast majority of our carbon emissions comes from two things: our buildings, and traveling between our buildings. Imagine if all our homes were power stations capable of supplying their own needs and charging their owners’ cars. Justin Bere is right; this would truly be a Green Technology Revolution.

More at bere:architects, where you can also download a serious monitoring report.

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Author’s elegant tiny house doubles as writing studio and library

There are tiny houses for all kinds of budgets: ultra-affordable, do-it-yourself affairs, or vehicles converted into tiny houses on wheels, and on the other end of the spectrum, high-end, luxurious tiny gems that have price tags to match. Designed and built by Nashville, Tennessee company New Frontier (previously), this tiny house comes into the latter category. It’s a small-scale guesthouse when not occupied, but also a writing studio and library for author Cornelia Funke.

New Frontier Tiny Homes© New Frontier Tiny Homes

It’s all about natural daylighting here: constructed on a 24-foot-long trailer and measuring 8.5 feet wide, the elegant yet rustic dwelling features a large glazed front facade, as well as a clerestory of windows that permits the sunlight to pour in — no doubt imparting great inspiration for productive writing sessions. In addition, the windows above also give the impression that the roof is higher than it is, offering the impression of greater space, which is emphasized by that huge awning that projects out and beyond the well-insulated house.

New Frontier Tiny Homes© New Frontier Tiny Homes

New Frontier Tiny Homes© New Frontier Tiny Homes

The main living room is a flexible, open space, populated by a couch, a chair, and a desk that can fold up or down when not being used. The walls and ceilings are clad with reclaimed barn wood.

New Frontier Tiny Homes© New Frontier Tiny Homes

New Frontier Tiny Homes© New Frontier Tiny Homes

The kitchen is relatively smaller to make way for a larger living room; however, it’s still got a sink and storage, and is painted in a bold, modern colour scheme of gray and yellow. There is a hidden dishwasher in one of the drawers, to save space.

New Frontier Tiny Homes© New Frontier Tiny Homes

Situated beside the kitchen, the bathroom is simple but functional and has been covered in a vibrant green.

New Frontier Tiny Homes© New Frontier Tiny Homes

The sleeping loft is accessible via a ladder, and offers a sweeping view over the the rest of the house. There is enough space here for a king-sized bed. From here you can see the library shelving high up, and the rods that support the movable ladder which allows for access to books on the shelves.

New Frontier Tiny Homes© New Frontier Tiny Homes

New Frontier Tiny Homes© New Frontier Tiny Homes

New Frontier Tiny Homes© New Frontier Tiny Homes

The cost for Cornelia Funke’s 204-square-foot live-work space is an eye-popping USD $125,000 — which is quite expensive for a tiny house (though the company does make a more basic version of this home for $110,000). All that may seem to fly in the face of the tiny house movement’s fundamental desire for simpler, happier living with less possessions in a smaller space, but there’s still plenty of positives of at least embracing the concept that ‘smaller is better’. To see more, visit New Frontier.

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85% of House Committee “Questioning” Zuckerberg Next Week Has Been Given Money by Facebook


Washington, D.C. — (ZH) Facebook and affiliated political groups have donated heavily to members of two committees set to interview CEO Mark Zuckerberg next week, according to analysis from the Center for Responsive Politics via USA Today.

Since 2007, the social media giant has contributed a cumulative $381,000 to 46 of the 55 members on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which will hear from Zuckerberg on Wednesday.

While the average committee member received between $6,750 and $6,800, Committee Chair Greg Walden (R-OR) received $27,000, and top ranking Democrat Frank Pallone of New Jersey received $7,000 from Facebook.

Rep. Anna Eschoo (D-CA), whose district is adjacent to Facebook headquarters and home to many Facebook employees, received the most from Facebook at $55,150 since 2007. Eschoo narrowly lost a battle with Pallone for ranking Democrat position on the committee in the 2014 election.

Walden and Pallone announced Zuckerberg’s appearance on Wednesday to testify on “critical consumer data privacy issues.”

“This hearing will be an important opportunity to shed light on critical consumer data privacy issues and help all Americans better understand what happens to their personal information online,” Messrs. Walden and Pallone said in a Wednesday statement. “We appreciate Mr. Zuckerberg’s willingness to testify before the committee, and we look forward to him answering our questions on April 11th.” (also, thanks for all that money Zuck! We’ll be sure to put the softballs on a plastic “T” for you)

Meanwhile, a Roll Call report reveals that two Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have nearly $100,000 invested in shares of Facebook – with Democratic Reps. Joe Kennedy of MA and Kurt Schrader of OR owning approximately $80,000 and $15,000 respectively.

Twenty-eight members listed stock in the social media giant, according to Roll Call’s Wealth of Congress project. Among them, Democratic Reps. Kurt Schrader of Oregon and Joseph P. Kennedy III of Massachusetts sit on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, while Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island sits on Senate Judiciary.

Both panels, along with Senate Commerce, invited Zuckerberg to appear before them after reports that Cambridge Analytica, a British big data firm, obtained access to private information of millions of Facebook users under questionable circumstances. Cambridge Analytica reportedly incorporated the data in ad-targeting tools used by political campaigns including President Donald Trump’s winning 2016 bid.

“Congressman Kennedy’s stock holdings do not influence his work in Congress,” his office said in response to questions from Roll Call about his Facebook shares. –Roll Call

Ten Democratic members of the Committee, including Kennedy, sent a letter last Thursday to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to commend the agency on its investigation into Facebook.

Meanwhile House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi owns at least $500,000 shares of Facebook through her husband, while Texas Republican Rep. Michael McCaul reported at least $1 million in Facebook stock and around $30,000 in 2016 capital gains through his wife and child.

Pelosi’s office noted “These investments are Mr. Pelosi’s not Leader Pelosi’s. Leader Pelosi plays no role in this investment and has no stock investments of her own,” an aide said.

That’s not all…

Illinois Rep. Brad Schneider has at least $200,000 in the company through his wife’s IRA, while Rhode Island Rep. Jim Langevin, a fellow Democrat, holds stock worth at least $115,000 and had capital gains of more than $5,000, according to his 2016 financial disclosure. Ohio Republican Rep. James B. Renacci also owns at least $150,000 worth of Facebook stock.

Several lawmakers with holdings in the company say they recognize that new policies on social media oversight are needed after the latest developments. –Roll Call

Several other members of Congress own Facebook as well – however one Senator, Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) wants nothing to do with Facebook, and has announced that he will be selling his shares.

According to Roll Call, here are all the members of Congress who listed Facebook holdings in their 2016 financial disclosures, along with the minimum worth of their stocks and of any capital gains or dividends.

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Sergei Skripal's Cat, Guinea Pigs Dead After Investigators Sealed House

Officials confirmed on Friday that two guinea pigs and a cat belonging to former Russian spy Sergei Skripal are dead after detectives investigating Skripal’s poisoning sealed off access to his home in Salisbury, England.

Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal were found unconscious on a public bench in Salisbury in early March, and taken to a hospital in critical condition. Investigators determined that they had been poisoned by a nerve agent and believed that the pair was intentionally targeted.

When a veterinarian was finally allowed access to the property, it was too late for the pets inside, UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told multiple  news  outlets on Friday. It was not immediately clear how long the pets were in the home unattended or when the vet was permitted to enter.

The two guinea pigs were already dead, apparently from dehydration. The cat, a black Persian named Nash Van Drake, was severely malnourished and in a huge amount of pain, The Sun reported.

“A cat was also found in a distressed state and a decision was taken by a veterinary surgeon to euthanise the animal to alleviate its suffering,” DEFRA told CNN in a statement.

The agency added that it could not say whether there was any evidence the animals had been exposed to the nerve agent that poisoned Skripal, a 66-year-old former colonel with Russia’s military intelligence, and his 33-year-old daughter. Both were in stable condition as of Friday, doctors told The Associated Press.

BBC reporter Dominic Casciani said in a Friday tweet that Skripal’s home had been sealed “for operational safety reasons” shortly after the poisoning was discovered. He added it was not clear “when police knew of the presence of the animals in Mr Skripal’s home or whether anyone considered rescuing them.”

However, a local veterinarian told The Sun in March that he had called police the day after the poisoning was reported, offering to help with the pets. Friends of Skripal also reportedly did not know the whereabouts of the pets. In the same article, The Sun wrote that an unidentified source “close to the family” was under the impression that the pets had been taken away for testing. 

A spokeswoman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals expressed grief over the fate of the animals in a statement sent to HuffPost.

“It is very sad to hear that these animals have died in such tragic circumstances,” she said. “However, we appreciate the emergency services were working in extreme and dangerous conditions in an incredibly fast-moving operation in an attempt to keep the public safe.”

Skripal was convicted in Russia of spying for the U.K. in 2006. In 2010, the U.K. granted him refuge. Though the Kremlin has denied being involved in the attack, the U.K.  expelled 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the poisoning. More than 20 other countries, including the United States, have followed suit. Moscow, in turn, has also started reciprocally expelling diplomats, including 60 from the U.S. 

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova publicly brought up Skripal’s pets on Wednesday, asking reporters where the animals were and what their condition was.

“After all, we are talking about living organisms, and if a poisonous agent was used in the house, they must also have been affected,” she said, according to CNN.

The Russian embassy tweeted on Thursday that Skripal had two cats and two guinea pigs. It’s unknown where the second cat is. 

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

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FEE and FIJA at the Arizona Beer House (Tucson) Monday April 9th; 7-8:30 pm = FREE EVENT

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Date: 04-04-2018

Events: Arizona

Join Kirsten C. Tynan, Executive Director of the Fully Informed Jury Association and Robert Anthony Peters, FIJA and FEE Alumni Board Member, for a meet and greet at the Arizona Beer House!

This event is free to attend, and FEE will cover your first 2 beers! If you are a FEE Alumn or fan in the area, we hope to see you there!

Here are some pertinent links:

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