Oakland coal port scheme still lurks in the shadows

Utah has loaned four coal-producing counties $53 million to buy into the project to guarantee export throughput for coal and other commodities produced in central Utah. But coal shipments might not be welcome in Oakland.

A thick blanket of smoke has obscured the proposition to loan $53 million in state money to a private company for access to an unbuilt port in Oakland — coal smoke.

The project had shown up on the Utah Permanent Community Impact Board’s agenda last April simply as “Infrastructure — Throughput Capacity.” And when Utah’s four largest coal-producing counties pushing the loan made their pitch at that meeting, they didn’t even use the word “coal.”

Instead, the backers spent most of their time talking about how the port contract would help move “Utah products,” including alfalfa and salt. (If Utah put every hay cube it exports through that port, it would be around two percent of the port’s capacity. Utah’s loan is intended to fund one-fifth of the $275 million project.) There was also mention of potash, which none of the four counties even produce.

Just in case you were having a momentary brain fart and actually started believing what politicians say – instead of what they do.

How can rape victims hope for justice when rape kits are routinely ignored

For decades, tens of thousands of boxes of DNA evidence that nurses meticulously gathered from the bodies and clothing of sex assault victims sat stacked in storage rooms, ignored. Later, this mountain of untested evidence would be known as the “rape kit backlog”.

As scrutiny of disregarded rape kits mounted, a portrait of a more difficult to tally sort emerged – rape kits police destroyed. As with the rape kit backlog, there is no national tally of the kits police destroyed. But increasingly, local media have published reports of police destroying rape kits in states as disparate as Utah, Kentucky and Colorado.

In some cases, police destroyed kits because they deemed allegations unfounded, alleged that victims didn’t cooperate or arrested suspects without the benefit of DNA. In others, victims never filed a police report and relinquished DNA to a group of anonymous rape kits known as non-reporting or “Jane Doe” evidence, collected in case they one day decide they can report…

In 2013, in Aurora, Colorado, police department workers derailed a prosecution when they destroyed a rape kit from a 2009 assault. The error was discovered when a detective got a hit on an offender DNA profile, went to pick up the rape kit and was told it no longer existed. Shortly thereafter, police stopped all evidence destruction while they investigated, and found workers destroyed evidence in 48 rape cases between 2011 and 2013…

In Kentucky, the state auditor discovered some police departments routinely destroyed rape kits after a year, even though the state had no statute of limitations for rape. The perpetrators could have been prosecuted as long as they were alive. He wouldn’t hazard a guess at how many kits had been destroyed by police….

“You may have a hit against the national DNA database, and when law enforcement or prosecutors are notified, [they] find out evidence has been destroyed,” said Kentucky state auditor Adam Edelen. “That’s a scandal – it’s a tragedy.”

Most state lawmakers, Rebecca Brown, policy director at the Innocence Project, said, fail to provide guidance on when to test and retain crime scene evidence, which in the case of a sexual assault is a rape kit.

RTFA for details of cases dropped, cases never carried to prosecution. There are lots of bureaucratic rationales around. A few are rolled out in the article. My feelings are a bit more abrupt. This crap has been going on for decades.

Cops don’t give a damn. The judicial system and prosecutors don’t give a damn. Our state legislators don’t give a damn. After all, it’s only women who are abused by the system which is supposed to be providing aid and comfort, justice to resolve what happened to them. And our society as a whole doesn’t give a damn, either.

No one will stand up and say that. But, the same number will not stand up and do anything about it either. I think any legislator who won’t fight to revise or repair useless evidence laws – especially as it applies to rape cases – should be replaced by someone with a conscience.

Second-use battery storage unit designed for regional grid connection


As electric cars come towards the end of their life, they create a set of problems that you simply don’t get with petrol cars – namely, getting rid of the batteries. Automotive giant Daimler is doing its bit to tackle the problem by partnering with The Mobility House, GETEC and Remondis to create a 13-megawatt battery storage unit out of second-life battery systems from electric and plug-in hybrid cars.

…Daimler provides its electric vehicle customers with a 10 year battery life guarantee, but reports that there’s still a good deal of life in the cells beyond this point…The company estimates that such batteries should offer at least another 10 years of usefulness when employed in stationary storage systems, which are said to be key in helping to level out dips in the energy supply coming from renewable sources like wind farms and solar power stations.

This is a role that’s partially played by fossil-fuel power plants at the moment, so Daimler says the battery system will help to “speed up the energy revolution and eliminates the cost of expanding the grid and building new power plants.”

The battery storage unit will be connected to the grid in early 2016.

I guess this is taking Elon Musk’s secondary use of his electric car batteries a step further, eh.

Antarctic snow gaining faster than losses — for a few more minutes of climate time

A new NASA study says that an increase in Antarctic snow accumulation that began 10,000 years ago is currently adding enough ice to the continent to outweigh the increased losses from its thinning glaciers.

The research challenges the conclusions of other studies, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2013 report, which says that Antarctica is overall losing land ice…

“We’re essentially in agreement with other studies that show an increase in ice discharge in the Antarctic Peninsula and the Thwaites and Pine Island region of West Antarctica,” said Jay Zwally…lead author of the study…”Our main disagreement is for East Antarctica and the interior of West Antarctica – there, we see an ice gain that exceeds the losses in the other areas.” Zwally added that his team “measured small height changes over large areas, as well as the large changes observed over smaller areas.”…

But it might only take a few decades for Antarctica’s growth to reverse, according to Zwally. “If the losses of the Antarctic Peninsula and parts of West Antarctica continue to increase at the same rate they’ve been increasing for the last two decades, the losses will catch up with the long-term gain in East Antarctica in 20 or 30 years — I don’t think there will be enough snowfall increase to offset these losses.”

Of course, that last sentence disappears in publications dedicated to ideology instead of scientific reality. This would be the appropriate place for a lecture on geologic time, climate-time vs meteorologic-time. I think it likely you already know what I’m talking about.

And, so does the clown show that clutches at straws hoping their children and grandchildren will find themselves in the magic world which lives only in the galaxy of kinder, gentler intellectual ennui.

RTFA for more details of the analysis. There are a few decent studies around on the significant differences between the northern and southern hemispheres of this small ball of mud we live on. Sooner or later, I’ll have to work something up that points out the whys and wherefores.