April 27, 2017

Energy Star Efficiency Program on the Trump Chopping Block

The Energy Star program started in 1992 to rate the efficiency of computer monitors and now covers dozens of product categories.   Paul Sakuma/AP

No more Energy Star: Manufactures can built as they wish and the customer would have no choice and no way of knowing which appliance will be better in efficiency helping to save energy and the planet  Appliance manufacturers and home builders  are in Washington, D.C., today to celebrate a  popular energy efficiency program, even as it’s slated for elimination in President Trump’s proposed budget. 
You probably know the program's little blue label with the star — the Environmental Protection Agency says 90 percent of U.S. households do.
"The Energy Star brand has brand recognition on par with, like, Coke and Pepsi," says Steve Byers, CEO of EnergyLogic. His company, which is among those receiving an Energy Star award at this year's event, inspects buildings to make sure they qualify for the program's seal of approval. "This is a very successful program," he says. "I don't know what more one could want out of a government program."
In fact, the 25-year-old Energy Star program appears to be targeted simply because it's run by the federal government. It's one of 50 EPA programs that would be axed under Trump's budget plan, which would shrink the agency's funding by more than 30 percent. (The U.S. Department of Energy also helps administer Energy Star, and would see a 5.6 percent budget cut.)
Critics of Energy Star say the government should get involved in the marketplace only when absolutely necessary. But that argument doesn’t hold sway for the program's legions of supporters, which span nonprofits, companies and trade groups. 

"These cuts make no sense," says Lowell Ungar, senior policy adviser with the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. His group, along with about 80 other nonprofits and companies, has written to Congress urging it to keep the program. More than 1,000 companies have called for strengthening the program in another letter, organized by the Alliance to Save Energy.
"The bottom line is proposed cuts to Energy Star would harm American consumers, they would destroy jobs, and they would make air pollution worse," Ungar says.
The federal government launched Energy Star in 1992 to rate the efficiency of computer monitors. Now it covers dozens of product categories, from washers to electronics and homes.
Here's how it works: The government sets criteria for efficient products. A third party inspects goods or housing, and if they meet the criteria, manufacturers can use the familiar blue sticker to market the product as energy-efficient.
In a North Denver development called Midtown, Steve Eagleburger of EnergyLogic was recently inspecting a home while construction workers put on finishing touches. This part of the Energy Star program has existed since 1995.
"What we're doing here is checking to make sure this attic is insulated," Eagleburger said as he stood on a ladder and peered through a raised attic hatch. "This one is not insulated at all."
He makes a note on a tablet, then he's off to the next thing — a checklist of dozens of items such as fans and air-duct seals. This house won't get the Energy Star label unless it fulfills all the requirements.
Energy Star is a voluntary program. It costs about $50 million a year to run, but punches above its weight in impact. In 2014, the EPA estimates the program helped American consumers and businesses save $34 billion and prevent more than 300 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
A study published last month in the journal Nature Energy found that Energy Star-rated buildings in Los Angeles used nearly 20 percent less energy compared with other buildings.
The little blue label also has an audience in countries such as Mexico and Canada.
"We do see that actually as a distinguishing factor," says Mike Gazzano of Delta Products, which makes fans for bathroom ventilation and other uses. He says customers consider Energy Star the mark of "a premium product" in terms of engineering and technology.
The idea for eliminating Energy Star might have come from conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation, which targets a range of efficiency programs in its own budget blueprint.
"This is something that the private sector can market and sell as a great quality for their product. So why is the government trying to nudge people in one direction when they simply shouldn't need to," says Nick Loris, an energy and environment policy fellow at the foundation.
Another critic is Myron Ebell, a climate change skeptic with the Competitive Enterprise Institute and head of Trump's EPA transition team. "It's good that Energy Star is a voluntary program," he says in a statement, "but it's not clear why taxpayer dollars should be used to promote some products over other products."
Energy Star has also weathered a scandal. In 2010, workers at the Government Accountability Office posed as product developers and got the Energy Star label for fictitious products. That launched the third-party certification that exists now.
Doug Johnson, vice president of technology policy with the trade group Consumer Technology Association, says that process can take time out of the already crunched product development cycle.
"It's a part of the program that we think should be reexamined," he says. "In fact we've been advocates for improving that part of the Energy Star program."
Johnson says there are other successful federal programs such as EnergyGuide that measure efficiency. Still, he doesn't think the entire Energy Star program should go away.
Ultimately, it will be up to Congress to decide whether shoppers continue to see the familiar blue sticker on goods in the showroom.
Grace Hood is an energy and environment reporter with Colorado Public Radio. You can follow her @gracehood.

Watch how this Ball Player Comes Out Gay to His Teammates

 An American professional baseball player based in Adelaide, Australia came out to his family on TLC’s This Is Life Live on Monday night.


The following is from outsports.com

Baseball player Ryan Jordan Santana came out publicly on live television Monday night, sharing the truth about his sexual orientation with his mother and teammates for the first time. The dramatic coming-out was part of TLC’s series This Is Life Live.
He played college baseball at Azusa Pacific Univ. in Southern California. He closed out his final year at APU winning PacWest Conference Player of the Week honors. Prior to that he played for St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Pheonix, Ariz. During his junior year in high school he hit .449
Interestingly, both of those schools have strong ties to the church. Azusa Pacific has a school policy barring gay sex
Santana told Outsports that playing at Azusa Pacific “was a tough spot for me because I do believe in God. It was challenging time for sure.”
Santana currently plays for the Golden Grove Dodgers in Adelaide, Australia. 
He said he first realized he was attracted to men around the age of 15 but felt he couldn’t tell anyone. 
“I lived a lie my whole life. I was always too afraid to even tell my teammates. But I don’t want to have to lie to them about this part of me anymore.”
The show’s host asked Santana one of the million-dollar questions: why come out to your family on national television?
“I feel like I struggled with it, and I know there are others struggling with their sexuality as well,” Santana said. “And I feel like I don’t want them to feel alone or by themselves. And i want to let them know they are not alone. I want to be some kind of outlet, a light.”
He said he was unable to say the words “I’m gay” out loud just 10 months ago.
Part of that has been his participation in sports. He felt, like so many other gay athletes, that being gay and coming out would end his participation in sports. Add to that living and playing in Australia, where same-sex marriage is still illegal, and previously playing for two Christian schools, and his apprehension was high.
“I always felt...I couldn’t come out and play baseball. I thought as soon as I came out, I’m done playing baseball. But it shouldn’t be that way. They should be able to know that and judge me off of my athletic ability. If I’m a good baseball player if i’m a good teammate.”
When he came out to two of his teammates in a recorded meeting, one of his teammates said before the big reveal that something was “so f******* gay.” 
When he finally told his two teammates, the one who made the gay crack quickly embraced him, literally, and said they’d be mates for life. His other teammate and roommate broke down in tears about the pain Santana must have been feeling.
“It doesn’t change anything between our friendship,” Santana’s roommate said.
Chalk another one up for the athletes.
When it finally came time to come out to his mom, he struggled through tears to share it with her. She took it great and comforted him.
“I’m accepting of anything and everything with you boys,” she said. “You’re still you.”
Chalk another one up for the moms.
“I want to live my life authentically,” Santana told Outsports. “Everyone should be able to. It is important now because I’m at a time in my life where I’m thinking about family and career. I feel like now is a good time and I hope to inspire others to tell their stories.”
This is Life Live continues Tuesday and Wednesday this week on TLC at 10pmET.

April 26, 2017

Stone a Nixon Era Hater Now Trump Man, Alt/News Manufacturer

The Trump era has brought with it a lot of things we wouldn't usually consider "normal." A reality TV star caught on camera bragging about sexual assault being elected president? Not normal. That same president putting trust in fringe websites while ignoring his own intelligence briefings and labeling mainstream news outlets "fake news"? Also not normal. But one of the strangest, most subtle bits of abnormality in this new world is the media renaissance of Trump adviser Roger Stone, who you may recognize from his appearances on cable and network news shows.

Stone chats with the media during a December 2016 visit to  Trump Tower. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

For more than 40 years, Stone played a mostly behind-the-scenes role in Republican politics. After Trump's election, that changed.

Also known as "Nixon's man in Washington" (according to Stone's own book), Stone has a long history as a political "dirty trickster" and purveyor of half-baked conspiracy theories on everything from 9/11 to the Kennedy assassination to Obama's birth certificate. He was also a key player in the election of Donald Trump. And, like the president, he prides himself on not being "politically correct."
He has referred to black and Latino journalists as “quota hires," he once ran an anti-Hillary Clinton organization called Citizens United Not Timid (apparently, he really liked the acronym), and this weekend, he went on a sexist Twitter rant, calling a woman identified as Caroline O. a "stupid ignorant ugly bitch."

Those sexist tweets were not an isolated incident.  His behavior was enough to get him banned from some of the cable news networks. He was banned from CNN (after calling CNN commentator Ana Navarro an "Entitled Diva Bitch," "Borderline retarded," and "'dumber than dog shit"), from MSNBC ("because of his now very well-known offensive comments"), and from Fox News (Stone says, "I'm banned at Fox because I kick their ass"). Stone became a star only to see it all fade once his more extreme views became more widely known.
You might think that would be the last we saw of him. You'd be wrong. While Stone hasn’t been back on any of the networks that banned him, he has been getting a lot of attention from mainstream networks like NBC and PBS since the election.

So why — if nothing about his misogyny, racism, and penchant for conspiracy theories has changed — is Roger Stone on our TVs again?

Stone recently appeared on NBC's "Today" show to discuss the effect Russia had on the 2016 campaign. In January, he appeared in the PBS "Frontline" documentary "Divided States of America." In April, Netflix will premiere "Get Me Roger Stone," a documentary about the man himself, at the Tribeca Film Festival. 
Despite being shunned by major networks during the election, the very same man who quoted Gore Vidal to the New York Times in 2015 — "Never miss the opportunity to have sex or be on television" — seems to be making good on at least the latter half of that statement.

Stone a Nixon Era Hater Now Trump Man,Alt.News Manufacturer

Stone in 1987 during his time as a political consultant for Campaign Consultants Inc. AP Photo/Tom Reed.
So, what is it? Why is Roger Stone being given a platform on our TVs again? And what does it say about what's "normal" in the Trump-era media landscape that a man who tweeted "DIE BITCH" at former New York Times editor Jill Abramson, who he called a "snot-nosed, arrogant, biased liberal — and all around bitch" because the paper didn't review his 2013 book about President Kennedy's assassination, who called former Rep. Michele Bachmann a "tranny," and who called Al Sharpton a "professional negro" is considered palatable for mainstream audiences?
Roger Stone hasn't changed, but maybe we have.

Stone during The New Yorker Festival 2016's "President Trump: Life as We May Know It" panel. Photo by Anna Webber/Getty Images for The New Yorker.

Stone is the canary in the Trump-era normalization coal mine. He is what happens when the country elects Donald Trump president, and he is evidence of a ripple effect that could continue for generations.

Roger Stone, Milo YiannopoulosAlex Jones, and others were once fringe elements within the media. Their ideas — sexist, hateful, and based in paranoia and conspiracy theories — were rejected for those very reasons. When people like them, whose arguments and careers are built upon a lifetime of bad behavior, are given platforms and aren't held responsible for their actions and attitudes, we start to become numb to just how extreme their views are. When we become indifferent to harmful viewpoints and people, we redefine "normal" — and not for the better. 
This is not normal. 
Hate is not normal. Bigotry, misogyny, racism, and xenophobia are not acceptable "alternative" viewpoints. And people who promote those messages should not become just one more cog in the cable news machine. We cannot let that become our new reality. We're better than that.
So why is Roger Stone on my TV again? 

Share image: Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Gay Reporter Broke The Gay Persecution in Chechnya Gone Into Hiding

A prominent Russian reporter who revealed horrific details of a crackdown on gay men in Chechnya has told CNN she is in hiding after receiving death threats.

Elena Milashina, a journalist at the Russian-language Novaya Gazeta newspaper, said she abandoned her apartment in Moscow and plans to leave Russia altogether after Muslim clerics in Chechnya delivered a fiery sermon calling for “retribution" against her and other journalists.

"This is the first time we got that kind of threat, when 15,000 people got together in a mosque and announced jihad against all the staff of Novaya Gazeta," Milashina told CNN in an interview. “It will last forever until the last of us dies.”

Speaking to a packed mosque in the regional capital, Grozny, the clerics adopted a resolution calling for the "instigators" of the reports to be held to account. The sermon was broadcast in full on regional state television in Chechen and independently transcribed for CNN.

The editorial board of Novaya Gazeta released a statement calling the sermon "an incitement to massacre journalists." Shortly afterwards, the newspaper received two envelopes filled with white powder.

"We still don't know what the powder is. We have asked the security forces to check it," Milashina told CNN. “But all of us, including me, consider this situation is very serious."
The threats come after a series of reports first written by Milashina focusing attention on allegations of mass arrests and torture of gay men in the mainly Muslim republic of Chechnya, in southern Russia.

CNN has spoken to several victims who say they have fled the region after being detained and suffering horrifying abuses.

"They tied wires to my hands and put metal clips on my ears to electrocute me," said one victim, whose identity CNN agreed to hide for his safety.
"When they shock you, you jump high above the ground," he told CNN at an undisclosed location.
Chechen authorities have refused to acknowledge the violence, denying that there are any gay men in Chechnya.

The Kremlin says it has no confirmation of any gay men in Chechnya suffering abuse.
But the reports have clearly struck a nerve. Local Chechen television has broadcast footage of Muslim clerics condemning what they called “women's gossip" and "lies" in newspaper reports.

Threats against journalists not new

In a country where journalists are routinely beaten up or even killed for their work, the clerics’ remarks have been taken as a worrying development.

Novaya Gazeta is no stranger to violent threats against its staff. In 2006, its star Chechnya reporter, Anna Politkovskaya, was gunned down in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building.
And since 2000, at least five other Novaya Gazeta journalists have also been killed in Mafia-style hits, a grim testament to how dangerous reporting in Russia can be and the bravery of reporters like Milashina who continue to report on Chechnya.

"The only way to stop people who might possibly think of murdering my colleagues is to show them there will be another one," she told CNN.
Asked if she was prepared to put her life on the line for that ideal, Milashina replied: "Yes. Absolutely. That makes me much stronger than my enemies in Chechnya.”

On His Way Back SF-Virgin Isl.+HIV/Gay/Man Arrested ICE Trans.to Miami

A San Jose man who is gay and HIV-positive has been detained at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilityin Florida for more than a month since returning from a trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Denis Davydov, 30, arrived in the U.S. legally in September 2014 and overstayed his visa. He has applied for political asylum, according to Sergey Piskunov with RUSA LGBT, a group for Russian-speaking members of the LGBT community.
“He’s a gay man and HIV-positive,” Piskunov said. “Russia is not the best place for either of those and he’s a combination of both.”
Davydov was on his way home to the Bay Area in early March when he encountered federal agents in an airport, according to Piskunov.
“They checked his documents, and he said they were trying really hard to find something wrong,” Piskunov said. “They put him on a plane to Miami and transported him to Florida.”
Nestor Yglesias, a spokesman for ICE in Florida, confirmed Tuesday that Davydov was arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and is currently in custody at the Krome Detention Center in Miami.
“They made the arrest,” Yglesias said. “He’s in our custody because they don’t have detention space.”
Yglesias referred further questions regarding Davydov’s case to Customs and Border Protection.
After a request for information about exactly where and when Davydov was detained, as well as any deportation proceedings that may be taking place, CBP spokesman Keith Smith said he would look into the matter but Department of Homeland Security privacy policies typically “preclude us from releasing information regarding individual travelers.”
Davydov is receiving his HIV medications every day while in detention but he needs to see a doctor and has been unable to access one, according to Piskunov. That claim could not be confirmed with federal agents.
“This is one of the reasons we really want to get him out of there,” Piskunov said.
If he gets deported, however, Davydov could face dire circumstances and difficulty accessing health care in Russia.
“I believe he’s not going to live too long,” Piskunov said. “We have several friends in common who passed away because of HIV consequences.”
“They have money for war in Ukraine, Crimea, Syria – they have money for all these military expenses but they don’t have money for the medical system,” Piskunov said. “And they don’t care.”
CBS San Francisco 

Faith Based Adoption Centers Can Refuse Gay/Lesb. Couples: AL

Alabama lawmakers on Tuesday gave final approval to a bill protecting faith-based adoption organizations that refuse to place children with gay parents, or other households, because of their religious beliefs.

The legislation would prohibit the state from refusing to license faith-based adoption groups that refuse placements because of their religious beliefs.
Proponents argued that the measure is needed to make sure adoption groups can operate without being forced to violate their religious beliefs, while critics, including the state's only openly gay lawmaker, called it blatant discrimination.

The Alabama House of Representatives voted 87-0 to go along with a Senate change to the bill. The legislation goes to Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature. The governor hasn't said whether she'll sign it.

"It's just making sure the faith-based child placing agencies aren't discriminated against due to their beliefs. It's not discriminating against anyone else," Rep. Rich Wingo, the Republican sponsor of the bill, said.

The bill's protections would apply only to private agencies that do not accept state or federal funds. Wingo said the bill would protect faith-based groups such as Agape and Baptist Children's Homes, which do adoption and foster care placements.

State Rep. Patricia Todd, the state's only openly gay lawmaker, said placements should be made on the best interest of the child and not on "some artificial demographic."

"We have too many kids in foster care who need adoption, many of them with special needs. Same-sex parents want to adopt and take care of those children," said Todd, D-Birmingham.

Related: My Experience With Second-Parent Adoption as a Same-Sex Couple

Todd said she voted to go along with a Senate change that said the protections wouldn't apply to agencies that accepted state funds

South Dakota, Michigan, North Dakota and Virginia have passed similar laws.

David Dinielli, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a Montgomery-based civil rights group, called the legislation "prejudice cloaked in religion."

"This law limits the number of homes available to Alabama's most vulnerable kids by allowing foster and adoption agencies to turn away parents who don't fit with the agencies' religious beliefs, including parents who are unmarried, divorced, Muslim, LGBT or even Christian," Dinielli said.


Featured Posts

Energy Star Efficiency Program on the Trump Chopping Block

The Energy Star program started in 1992 to rate the efficiency of computer monitors and now covers dozens of product categories....