Trump Commerce Secretary’s speech cut off — German audience laughs, applauds!

❝ U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s video address to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s political party’s business conference in Berlin was cut off on Tuesday after Ross went over his time limit, prompting conference attendees to laugh and cheer.

Ross’s video feed at the Christian Democratic Union conference was faded out after roughly 20 minutes for going over his time limit…

Attendees then began to applaud and laugh at the move.

❝ The episode comes as tensions have grown between the U.S. and Germany, especially on the issue of trade.

The commerce secretary echoed President Trump’s criticism of Germany’s trade surplus with the U.S.

❝ Ross’s address comes one week before the Merkel and Trump will meet with their international counterparts at the G-20 summit in Hamburg.

Ross is as boring as a Trump Conservative can be. Trying to explain the policies of an incompetent masquerading as US President is difficult enough on white bread-American network TV. Trying to make sense to an audience of worldly European conservative politicians is a lost cause.

The Power of Wind Revisits the North Sea Courtesy of G.E. and Germany


G.E’s DolWin3 floating wind power platform

❝ General Electric Co. said it’s ready to ship a 1.5 billion euro offshore wind platform destined for the North Sea, underscoring the industrial giant’s commitment to clean power.

The platform is a key part of the DolWin3 offshore project and will help transmit wind power generated in the North Sea, according to Alf Henryk Wulf, who heads GE’s power unit in Germany, which led construction of the unit. Wulf didn’t want to discuss U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to quit the Paris accord during an interview at a port in Rostock, Germany where the 900-megawatt high-voltage converter was built.

❝ Commissioned by grid builder Tennet Holding BV, Dolwin3 is undergoing final dry-dock tests before being floated around Denmark and into the North Sea. The platform will bundle power from three wind farms next year, transmitting high-voltage direct current onshore, where it can then be reconverted to alternating currents for use in homes.

“As offshore prices fall, the North Sea’s potential for offshore is shining even brighter,” Wulf said. “We all owe it to consumers to engage that potential.”…

And Trump’s favorite coal investors get little or nothing from their best pimp.

❝ Germany, which holds the rotating presidency of the Group of Twenty nations, has sought to keep the U.S. on board the Paris treaty, wooing Trump with projections that a global shift from fossil fuel would create jobs and stimulate economic growth.

Just 1 percent of the North Sea’s offshore potential has been exploited, and billions of euros in future investment will be needed to tap the rest, Siemens said last month. Dong Energy SA and Energie Baden-Wuerrtemberg AG won Germany’s maiden auction of 1.49 gigawatts of offshore power in April offering to build parks free of subsidies.

I don’t think anyone holds out hope for reality, evidence-based investing or modern science to mean a damned thing to our so-called president.

Crooked stock market investor pretended to be Islamic “terror” bomber

❝ A 28-year-old German-Russian citizen took out a five-figure loan to bet that Borussia Dortmund shares would drop, then bombed the soccer team’s bus in an attack he tried to disguise as Islamic terrorism in a scheme to net millions…

The suspect, identified only as Sergej W. in line with German privacy laws, was arrested by a police tactical team early Friday near the southwestern city of Tuebingen…

❝ …Prosecutors’ spokeswoman Frauke Koehler told a news conference Friday…the man came to the attention of investigators because he had made “suspicious options purchases” for shares in Borussia Dortmund, the only top-league German club listed on the stock exchange, on the same day as the April 11 attack.

❝ W. had taken out a loan of “several tens of thousands of euros” days before the attack and bought a large number of so-called put options, betting on a drop in Dortmund’s share price, she said.

“A significant share price drop could have been expected if a player had been seriously injured or even killed as a result of the attack,” according to prosecutors…

❝ Investigators found notes at the scene claiming responsibility on behalf of Islamic extremists, which Germany’s top security official, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, said was a “particularly perfidious way to toy with people’s fears…”

“The fact that someone wanted to enrich himself by killing people to influence the stock market is particularly reprehensible,” he said.

Adds new meaning to “making a killing in the stock market”.

Germany prepares to fine Facebook €500,000 for every fake or hate-filled post

❝ Germany has lost patience with Facebook.

After years of asking, cajoling and threatening the US social network to work faster to tackle fake news and hate speech, Berlin has announced a new law hitting Facebook with a €500,000 fine for every problematic post that doesn’t vanish within 24 hours.

❝ A day after Facebook announced new procedures to tackle fake news, Berlin made clear it is no longer interested in self-regulation

…New legislation in the new year…will oblige all dominant internet platforms operating in Germany to have a legal contact, operating round-the-clock, for victims of hate speech and fake news. At present, German Facebook users complain that complaints are forwarded to its international headquarters in Dublin – with an unclear response and action time.

“If, after checking, Facebook doesn’t delete the post in question within 24 hours, it can reckon with severe fines of up to €500,000,” said Thomas Oppermann, Bundestag floor leader of Germany’s ruling SPD. In addition, he said, the person affected will be able to demand a “correction with the same reach” as the original post…

Keep an eye on this one. While there’s little chance of the GOUSA ever making hate speech illegal, laws affecting a portion of Facebook’s income stream as large as Germany and thenceforth the EU – laws applied in that marketplace may set standards for the larger communications entity.

Cartoon: same as it ever was

I had friends, kin, in the Allied force that invaded, confronted the German military ruling most of Europe till the crushing bonfire that was all that was left of Germany at the end of World War 2. They helped bring about an end to the Thousand-Year-Reich. Something much longer than anything Steve Bannon proposes for Trump and their white supremacist gang.

Along the way they were often reminded of what they could – and could not – fire upon. That latter category included anything with a sign that said Krupp.

Germany calls for Europe-wide ban on gas-powered cars by 2030


Click to enlarge

❝ After coming to the realization that they would need a mandate for all cars to be zero-emission by 2030 if they want to comply with the goals set by the Paris agreement to curb climate-warming emissions, Germany’s upper house of parliament gained approval for pushing a Europe-wide mandate to stop gas-powered car sales by 2030…

While nothing is made into law yet, the movement to stop new sales of cars equipped with internal combustion engines by no later than 2030 is starting to pick up steam.

❝ India recently confirmed that it is evaluating a scheme for all its fleet to be electric by 2030 and both the Dutch government and the Norwegian government are discussing the possibility to ban gas-powered car sales and only allow electric vehicle sales starting in 2025.

❝ Some governments are discussing actual bans on new gas-powered car sales that would virtually only allow all-electric vehicles to be registered, or potentially other zero-emission cars at the tailpipe like fuel cell vehicles, but most are discussing regulations that would gradually tax internal combustion engines and favor electric vehicles…

❝ The new push for a 2030 mandate comes as several German automakers announced important plans to accelerate their electric vehicle programs, including Volkswagen’s plan to build 2 to 3 million all-electric cars a year and unveil 30 new models by 2025 and Mercedes’ new all-electric brand: ‘EQ’.

VW has indicated recently that they’d probably start off their production of EVs exclusively in their United States facilities. Obviously, that will have to expand globally as this qualitative change takes hold.

American universities said “unqualified” – which a German university ignored – and he overturned 150 years of Biology


Click to enlargeConor Lawless

In 1995, if you had told Toby Spribille that he’d eventually overthrow a scientific idea that’s been the stuff of textbooks for 150 years, he would have laughed at you. Back then, his life seemed constrained to a very different path. He was raised in a Montana trailer park, and home-schooled by what he now describes as a “fundamentalist cult.” At a young age, he fell in love with science, but had no way of feeding that love. He longed to break away from his roots and get a proper education.

At 19, he got a job at a local forestry service. Within a few years, he had earned enough to leave home. His meager savings and non-existent grades meant that no American university would take him, so Spribille looked to Europe.

Thanks to his family background, he could speak German, and he had heard that many universities there charged no tuition fees. His missing qualifications were still a problem, but one that the University of Gottingen decided to overlook. “They said that under exceptional circumstances, they could enroll a few people every year without transcripts,” says Spribille…

Throughout his undergraduate and postgraduate work, Spribille became an expert on the organisms that had grabbed his attention during his time in the Montana forests — lichens.

You’ve seen lichens before, but unlike Spribille, you may have ignored them. They grow on logs, cling to bark, smother stones. At first glance, they look messy and undeserving of attention. On closer inspection, they are astonishingly beautiful. They can look like flecks of peeling paint, or coralline branches, or dustings of powder, or lettuce-like fronds, or wriggling worms, or cups that a pixie might drink from. They’re also extremely tough. They grow in the most inhospitable parts of the planet, where no plant or animal can survive.

Lichens have an important place in biology. In the 1860s, scientists thought that they were plants. But in 1868, a Swiss botanist named Simon Schwendener revealed that they’re composite organisms, consisting of fungi that live in partnership with microscopic algae. This “dual hypothesis” was met with indignation: it went against the impetus to put living things in clear and discrete buckets. The backlash only collapsed when Schwendener and others, with good microscopes and careful hands, managed to tease the two partners apart…

In the 150 years since Schwendener, biologists have tried in vain to grow lichens in laboratories. Whenever they artificially united the fungus and the alga, the two partners would never fully recreate their natural structures. It was as if something was missing — and Spribille might have discovered it.

He has shown that largest and most species-rich group of lichens are not alliances between two organisms, as every scientist since Schwendener has claimed. Instead, they’re alliances between three. All this time, a second type of fungus has been hiding in plain view.

“There’s been over 140 years of microscopy,” says Spribille. “The idea that there’s something so fundamental that people have been missing is stunning.”

RTFA, please. Follow Toby Spribille’s journey from a childhood suffocated in superstition – skipping over an American education system that considered him worthless because he didn’t qualify by the book – to school in Germany and eventually to a career rich in discovery in his love for science.

Germany just had a day with so much renewable energy it had to pay people to use electricity


Click to enlargedIlmari Karonen/WikiMedia

On Sunday, May 8, Germany hit a new high in renewable energy generation. Thanks to a sunny and windy day, at one point around 1pm the country’s solar, wind, hydro and biomass plants were supplying about 55 GW of the 63 GW being consumed, or 87%.

Power prices actually went negative for several hours, meaning commercial customers were being paid to consume electricity.

Last year the average renewable mix was 33%, reports Agora Energiewende, a German clean energy think tank. New wind power coming online should push that even higher.

“We have a greater share of renewable energy every year,” said Christoph Podewils of Agora. “The power system adapted to this quite nicely. This day shows again that a system with large amounts of renewable energy works fine.”

Critics have argued that because of the daily peaks and troughs of renewable energy—as the sun goes in and out and winds rise and fall—it will always have only a niche role in supplying power to major economies. But that’s looking less and less likely. Germany plans to hit 100% renewable energy by 2050, and Denmark’s wind turbines already at some points generate more electricity than the country consumes, exporting the surplus to Germany, Norway and Sweden.

Germany’s good news demonstrated they’re still lacking flexibility. Any enterprise – even a public utility – hates to pay back consumers for being hooked-up.

Not bad news for consumers, though. Even the corporations that benefitted.

Thanks, Honeyman

Welcome to the 21st Century

Trump Oops

The start of 2016 has been anything but calm. Falling equity prices in China have destabilized markets worldwide. Emerging economies seem to have stalled. The price of oil has plunged, pushing petroleum producers into crisis. North Korea is flexing its nuclear muscles. And in Europe, the ongoing refugee crisis is fomenting a toxic tide of nationalism, which threatens to tear the European Union apart. Add to this Russia’s neo-imperial ambitions and the threat of Islamic terrorism, and comets streaking across the sky may be the only thing missing from a picture of a year shaping up to be one of prophetic doom.

Wherever one looks, chaos seems to be ascendant. The international order forged in the fires of the twentieth century seems to be disappearing, and we have not had even the faintest glimpse of what will replace it…

Political and economic order – particularly on a global scale – does not simply arise from peaceful consensus or an unchallenged claim by the most powerful. It has always been the result of a struggle for domination – often brutal, bloody, and long – between or among rival powers. Only through conflict are the new pillars, institutions, and players of a new order established.

The liberal Western order in place since the end of World War II was based on the global hegemony of the United States. As the only true global power, it was dominant not only in the realm of hard military power – as well as economically and financially – but in nearly all dimensions of soft power – for example, culture, language, mass media, technology, and fashion.

Today, the Pax Americana that ensured a large degree of global stability has begun to fray – most notably in the Middle East and on the Korean Peninsula. The US may still be the world’s strongest power, but it is no longer able or willing to play the role of the world’s policeman or make the sacrifices needed to guarantee order. Indeed, in a globalized world, with ever closer integration in terms of communication, technology, and – as we have recently seen – the movement of people, the centers of power are diluted and dispersed; by its very nature, a globalized world eludes the imposition of twentieth-century order…

In fact, the main challenge of the coming years is likely to be managing America’s declining influence. There is no framework for the retirement of a hegemon. While a dominant power can be brought down through a struggle for domination, voluntary retreat is not an option, because the resulting power vacuum would endanger the stability of the entire system. Indeed, overseeing the end of Pax Americana is likely to dominate the tenure of America’s next president – whoever that might be.

Can you imagine any of the policies promoted by the 19th Century hucksters popular today in the Republican Party bringing anything other than war and ruin to the world? Really, the question which should be central in the minds of American voters this coming November is who can we elect to maintain a global economy, a world of commerce, which at least permits some opportunity to resolve questions of democracy and opportunity, health and peace.

I don’t see anyone on the Right with the modicum of good sense required for self-preservation. Reading his article, it’s clear the former Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor of Germany would feel the same if he was an American voter. No doubt he clearly recalls his nation’s criminal adventure with alternatives.

Crowds in Munich greeting refugees who made the trek from Budapest

In pouring rain, they crossed the last few metres into Austria in the early hours of Saturday morning. The waiting Austrian police in their heavy waterproofs were taken aback by the refusal of the Hungarian bus drivers to take their passengers the last two kilometres, over the border and on to the Nickelsdorf train station where they were expected, and where a Vienna-bound train was waiting.

Instead, the officers had to guide the way with torches, helpless to offer shelter to the tired clusters of men, women and children coming through the puddles at the side of the motorway in the darkness…

A Red Cross tent offered a respite from the rain, with medics and volunteers working shifts while people waiting their turn to board special half-hourly bus and train services, laid on by the Austrian Federal Railway, to Vienna and Salzburg, and from there to Munich…


German volunteers feeding refugees as they arrive in Munich

By midday on Saturday, said Colin Turner, volunteers’ spokesman at Munich railway station, a total of 3,000 people had arrived. German officials expected up to 7,000 to arrive through the city by the end of the day.

This, said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, was a “defining moment” for the 28-nation European Union. Already the heroes and villains of the piece were being laid out – with condemnation of the response of the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, and praise for Germany’s Angela Merkel and the Austrian chancellor, Werner Faymann, who announced they were opening their doors to refugees in the early hours of Saturday.

Around the same time, Hungary unexpectedly decided to provide buses for those who had simply walked out of Budapest on foot, heading for the Austrian border, after being prevented for several days from catching trains out of the capital. Some had been taken to a refugee camp.

In what the Hungarian media called a “day of uprisings”, 350 people had broken through a police cordon on Friday and begun heading to Austria, 137km away, on tracks leading away from the railway station. By late afternoon on Friday, a day after Orbán had warned of a “Muslim threat” to a Christian culture, up to 2,000 people – most from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan – were walking towards the border in chaotic scenes.

The sudden appearance of blue public buses was a staggering about-turn – and an unexpected rejection of the Dublin convention, which says refugees should be kept in the first EU country they enter, and which Hungary had insisted on upholding. The country is already under fire for its plans to close and wire-fence its borders, saying it will effectively seal the frontier to migrants as of next week, in the face of EU Schengen rules…

The buses triggered alarm. Many refugees distrusted the Hungarian authorities after some of those camped at Budapest railway station had earlier boarded buses that they were told were heading for the Austrian border, only to end up in a refugee camp in Hungary. Many feared a similar ploy this time. “Who’s organising it, the Hungarians?” asked Ali, a Syrian on the march, after seeing the buses were coming. “Forget it, I’m walking.”…

In Austria, the mood was one of pride – for the way the government responded to the crisis and for the overwhelming response from people ferrying donations of food, water and clothes to train stations in Vienna and Salzburg…

By Saturday afternoon, officials in Vienna had to ask people to stay away from the station, which was heavily overcrowded with well-wishers bearing donations…

On Saturday night at Munich’s main station, dozens of Germans lined up behind police barriers to clap, cheer and distribute sweets to welcome refugees to their new home. A sophisticated official operation provided food and transport to temporary lodging.

RTFA for many more details.

To me it is clear the response from each nation’s government – guided the public response. Conservatives and rightwing politicians provoked all the worst in anti-human attitudes. In other lands – like Germany and Austria, more traditional Conservatives along with their Left-wing peers focused on providing aid and assistance to refugees from war.

Same as it ever was.