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US states have spent the past 5 years trying to criminalize protest

The Minnesota legislature has spent the last five years preparing for the kind of protests that have rocked the city over the past week in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd — by attempting to criminalize them.

From 2016 through 2019, state lawmakers introduced ten bills that either made obstructing traffic on highways a misdemeanor or increased penalties for protesting near oil and gas facilities. Most of these legislative proposals were introduced in response to ongoing protests against a controversial oil pipeline as well as those following the police killing of Philando Castile in a St. Paul suburb in 2016. The bills would have allowed protesters to be jailed for up to a year, fined offenders up to $3,000 each, and allowed cities to sue protesters for the cost of police response. Many of the bills were introduced in 2017 after racial justice activists in the state made headlines shutting down a major highway. A couple others were in response to protests in 2016 and 2019 against the energy company Enbridge’s planned replacement of a pipeline running from Alberta to Wisconsin.

None of the bills have yet become law, but three failed only because they were vetoed by the governor. Two bills introduced earlier this year are still on the table. One would make trespassing on property with oil and gas facilities punishable by up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The other would make those who assist such activity civilly liable for damages.

Over the past half-decade, a wave of bills that criminalize civil disobedience has swept state legislatures across the country — particularly those controlled by Republican lawmakers. According to a new report by PEN America, a nonprofit advocating for First Amendment rights, 116 such bills were proposed in state legislatures between 2015 and 2020. Of those, 23 bills in 15 states became law. While there is no comprehensive count of the number of people arrested and prosecuted under these new laws, activists protesting oil and gas activity have been charged with felonies in Houston and Louisiana.

This year alone, four states — Kentucky, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Utah — passed laws that increased penalties and charges for either interfering with oil and gas activity or disturbing meetings of government officials. (Interfering with oil and gas activity may include obstructing the construction or operation of pipelines and other “critical infrastructure.”) As of May, 12 other bills are pending in various state legislatures — all of them introduced before the past week’s unrest. If passed, these bills would increase disciplinary sanctions for campus protesters, classify trespassing on property with oil and gas infrastructure a felony, and expand the definition of rioting, among other things.

More bills increasing penalties for protesters may be on their way. In response to the recent protests against George Floyd’s killing, a Tennessee lawmaker has proposed increasing penalties for rioting and South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has said that her administration is looking into legislative proposals to respond to the recent unrest.

“Protest, in the last several years, has absolutely been followed by efforts by state legislators to criminalize the very activity practiced in the mere months prior,” said Nora Benevidez, director of the U.S. Free Expression Programs at PEN America. “There is this larger narrative that is being cast that protest needs to be narrowed — and the definitions around what constitutes acceptable protests are becoming smaller and smaller.”

Benevidez found that, in the years prior to recent large-scale protests and the 2016 election victories of conservative state legislators, proposals chipping away at constitutionally-protected protest activity were few and far between. In 2015 and 2016, only six bills narrowing the rights of protesters were introduced. But in 2017 — in the wake of nationwide protests over the police shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, protests against the Dakota Access pipeline, and marches responding to President Trump’s election — that number rose to 56.

Lawmakers who supported such bills weren’t shy about their intentions. In 2018, Minnesota state senator Paul Utke — the main sponsor of a bill that would have made training, hiring, or counseling those who end up trespassing on property with a pipeline a felony punishable with up to ten years in prison and a $20,000 fine — pointed to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests as a reason for the bill. “We saw what happened in North Dakota and we have a big pipeline project coming up [in Minnesota],” he said.

Only two such laws have been challenged in court. South Dakota’s “riot-boosting” law, which allowed the state to sue protesters for damages, was found unconstitutional in 2019 because it was created in anticipation of protests against the Keystone XL pipeline. Earlier this year, however, lawmakers passed a new version of the law, which has not yet been challenged in court. Litigation against a similar law in Louisiana is pending.

Benevidez said she expects to see many more bills curtailing the right to protest in the coming months.

“The long-term and sustained ways to target certain groups comes not just from moments like this but in the months that follow,” she said. “Even if protests die down, the need to be ready to challenge some of these proposals is going to be really necessary.”

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US states have spent the past 5 years trying to criminalize protest

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Record-breaking flooding in Nebraska is visible from space

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Governor Pete Ricketts has declared more than half of Nebraska’s 93 counties a disaster area as record-breaking spring floods have swollen into a catastrophe. “This really is the most devastating flooding we’ve probably ever had in our state’s history, from the standpoint of how widespread it is,” Ricketts told CNN on Monday. Even the National Weather Service in Omaha was forced to abandon their office due to flooding.

Here’s how it happened: Last week, a hurricane-strength storm system unleashed torrential rainfall over the deep Nebraska snowpack, flash-melting huge quantities of water and overwhelming dams and levees. Unusually warm temperatures have remained in place since the storm’s passage, worsening the runoff. The resulting flooding has been visible from space.

USGS Landsat Program

Spring flooding happens nearly every year in the upper Midwest, but current flooding has far surpassed previous all-time records on Nebraska’s major waterways. Climate change means springtime temperatures are arriving earlier with more intense early-season rains, worsening the risk of damaging floods. In one location, the Missouri River broke its previous record by nearly four feet.

The most spectacular flooding resulted from the failure of the 90-year-old Spencer Dam on the Niobrara River in north-central Nebraska when it unleashed an 11-foot wall of water on Thursday. Before the flood gauge on the river failed, “it looked like something incredible was happening that we couldn’t believe,” Jason Lambrecht, a Nebraska-based hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey told the Lincoln Journal-Star. “And suddenly, everything went dark.”

The flash flood destroyed roads, homes, and bridges before emptying into the Missouri River and joining with meltwater from South Dakota and Iowa. On Saturday, two levees breached on the Platte River, cutting off the town of Fremont, Nebraska — the state’s sixth-largest city. A volunteer airlift has been supplying the city over the weekend and performing rescues.

As of Monday, water levels have crested in most of the state, though major flooding will continue for several days. Offutt Air Force base near Omaha — the home of U.S. Strategic Command — remains inundated, a poignant sign of climate change as a national security risk. There are dozens of road closures across the area.

Eastern Nebraska is just the worst-hit region: Major flooding is currently underway in parts of seven states in the upper Midwest, with near-record flooding expected to spread northward into Minnesota and North Dakota in the coming weeks. In Minnesota, officials expect a greater than 95 percent chance of major flooding, possibly rivaling all-time records.

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Record-breaking flooding in Nebraska is visible from space

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Ilhan Omar’s 16-year-old daughter is co-leading the Youth Climate Strike

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Freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is championing one of the boldest climate policies in America. The Minnesota representative grew up in Somalia before immigrating to the United States as a refugee, so she was able to see firsthand the consequences of drought and make deep connections between climate change and all aspects of human society.

“I’m one who is urging my colleagues to really take this opportunity to not just issue resolutions and talking points, but for us to actually put a real bill on the table and to allow us to have a real conversation on this issue,” Omar recently told Minnesota Public Radio.

But Omar is not the only environmental influencer in her family — her daughter Isra Hirsi, 16, is one of the three youth leaders planning the U.S. component of Friday’s International Youth Climate Strike, in which young people will walk out of class in order to call for urgent climate action.

I had a chance to talk with Isra about how her efforts are already making a huge impact, and how her passion for the environment has influenced her family.

Update: In response to this piece, Omar wrote on Twitter: “Proud mom here! I hope other Members of Congress will join me in this strike. We need to listen to the wisdom of our kids!”

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Q. What’s it been like for you getting this all together?

A. It’s been a lot. There’s just a lot going on. Every 10 seconds there’s something else that pops up that you wouldn’t expect. It’s been crazy. There are so many people involved and so many things you have to do. It’s been really stressful. It definitely does interfere with school. I respond to texts and messages during the school day, and then I come home at four and that’s when I start doing all my calls. I have calls every single night. It’s kind of go-time. It’s all over the place. It’s a lot of work, more than I expected.

Q. How have you influenced your family by taking this on? Have you been able to teach them things about why you feel so strongly about this?

A. My parents are already kind of on top of it, a little bit less so my siblings. But my little sister is really young and so she kind of gets it. I told her that she should go to the strikes and she’s was like, “yeah I want to go.” So my dad is going to take her to the capital. She’s really interested. My parents definitely understand and are up with everything.

Q. How old is your sister?

A. She’s 6.

Q. Are you going to be speaking at the strike at the capital?

A. I’m going to D.C.

Q. Oh cool. With your mom?

A. Yeah.

Q. She just announced she’s going to be attending. (Editor’s note: so far, Omar is the only member of Congress who has confirmed she will be attending this Friday’s nationwide school strike for climate change)

A. Yeah, she’ll be speaking too.

Q. How do you feel about that?

A. I mean, I kind of got her to. It’s good. I kind of wanted to get people there. We invited some other people like [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and Bernie Sanders and we’re just hoping they all come.

Q. How was that conversation with your mom to get her to speak there?

A. It was just a matter of, she wanted to go — she was probably speaking about it that weekend, and she said, “I’ll be in D.C., I’ll go speak.” So I’m going to fly out from Minneapolis and then fly back with her, so it’s just perfect.

Q. How has your family influenced you? You said both of your parents “get it.” Where do you feel most of your inspiration is coming from?

A. I wouldn’t say it would be my parents. I would say more of the spaces that I’m in. Learning more about climate change and what it does, all of the different things that impact it. I learned about things like Line 3, and wildfires in California. There are so many things that got me realizing how important this is. It’s important to talk about what climate change does to marginalized communities, what it could do to your community. I think that’s a really great way to get more people involved.

Q. And watching the whole national conversation over the past few months.

A. Especially Sunrise. They’re very big now. Reading about the Green New Deal, it’s inspiring. Learning about all these things is kind of interesting. And Sunrise has helped put women of color at the forefront.

Q. Why do you think it’s important to have women of color leading the climate change movement?

A. People of color are disproportionately affected by climate change and that kind of just gets ignored. People are living with these things right now. Accessibility, when it comes to fighting for climate change, also gets ignored. Every interview I have, they’re like, “Are you striking every Friday?” And I’m like, no, I can’t. There’s no way. People say, “Oh you’re not vegetarian!” And I say, “Well, my family is not from this country. They grew up as meat-eaters, I can’t control those things.”

It’s important for people to step back and realize that they’re not the only people. Environmental racism is a really big thing. The environmental movement is still predominantly white, how do we change that conversation? Having women of color leading is one way to do that.

Q. How is your school reacting? Is your school supporting you?

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A. I recently sent an email to my teachers explaining the climate strikes and what I was doing. A lot of them brushed past it and were kind of ignoring it. Some were really interested. It’s also awareness for them to understand that students won’t be in school on Friday and this is definitely a conversation we should be having. My peers and I are going around to science classes and talking about the climate strike and all the teachers are letting us. Some teachers are even giving kids extra credit if they go to the marches.

Q. There are some high schools that are actively supporting kids who go. Has your principal made any sort of announcement?

A. The problem isn’t my principal; it’s my district. They’ll definitely count it as unexcused. But my school is really supportive. A lot of the students are also apolitical, they don’t care. It’s not really a question of the teachers or the principal, it’s more like will the high school students actually attend.

Q. But if they see role models, if they see you up there …

A. That’s true, but last year I tried to get 1,000 kids from my high school to go to something and I only got 200.

Q. That’s pretty good.

A. Well, there are 2,000 kids at my school. We’re in the middle of Minneapolis, we’re super close to the light rail, we can easily go over to the state capitol building.

Q. So, what’s your strategy? Do you double down on the kids that get it?

A. Yeah, we’re really just focused on the students who actually care. We go into those classes and get the teachers to talk to those students who are actually interested. It’s easier. It’s still worth it to get the kids who care. The climate strikes are a great way for young people to get involved pretty easily. It’s also a way for politicians to understand that young people really care.

These strikes are happening all over the world. Getting young people out, going to state capitols, going to city halls, going to the nation’s capital and talking about these things, that says something. That’s what we’re trying to do: Change the conversation not only about things like the Green New Deal but so much more. Obviously, one strike isn’t going to change everything, but this isn’t the last strike.

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Ilhan Omar’s 16-year-old daughter is co-leading the Youth Climate Strike

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3M pays up after Minnesota sued over poisoned drinking water.

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3M pays up after Minnesota sued over poisoned drinking water.

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Transit ridership is slipping in some big cities.

Democratic Party insiders will vote for a new chair this weekend. The winner will get the tough job of trying to rebuild a damaged party.

Ten people are in the running, but the victor is likely to be one of the top two contenders: Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison or former Labor Secretary Tom Perez. Ellison backed Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary last year, and Sanders is backing Ellison in this race. In 2012 and 2015, Ellison and Sanders teamed up to push a bill to end subsidies for fossil fuel companies.

Climate activist (and Grist board member) Bill McKibben argues that Ellison, a progressive who is “from the movement wing,” would help the party regain credibility with young people.

A coalition of millennial leaders endorsed Ellison this week, including a number of activists from climate groups. “We want a chair who will fight to win a democracy for all and overcome the profound crises of our time — from catastrophic climate change to systemic racism, historic economic inequality to perpetual war,” they wrote.

350 Action, the political arm of climate group 350.org, endorsed Ellison earlier this month:

And Jane Kleeb, a prominent anti-Keystone activist and a voting DNC member, is backing Ellison too:

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Transit ridership is slipping in some big cities.

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Black Immigrants Brace for Dual Hardships Under Trump

Mother Jones

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Two days before the presidential election, Donald Trump traveled to the deeply segregated city of Minneapolis to make a final pitch to voters. He didn’t spend any time discussing Minnesota’s racial wealth gap—according to one study, the state’s financial disparity between races is the highest in the country—or the fatal police shooting of Philando Castile during a traffic stop in the state four months earlier.

Instead, he talked about Minnesota’s Somali population, larger than in any other state. “Here in Minnesota, you’ve seen first-hand the problems caused with faulty refugee vetting, with very large numbers of Somali refugees coming into your state without your knowledge, without your support or approval,” Trump said in the November 6 speech. “Some of them are joining ISIS and spreading their extremist views all over our country and all over the world,” he added.

A thousand miles away in New York City, the speech left Amaha Kassa worried. In 2012, Kassa founded African Communities Together, an immigrant rights group that connects African immigrants to services and advocates for immigration policies beneficial to people coming from Africa. “When our community sees a group of African immigrants being targeted in that way, then that gives cause for concern about what we are going to see from the administration,” he said of Trump’s Minnesota speech. “The fear is that under President Trump it is going to get worse.”

In the weeks after Trump’s stunning electoral upset, discussions of what the incoming administration could mean for immigrants have largely focused on the concerns of undocumented Latinos—an unsurprising development given the size of that population and its vocal activism in recent years. But other immigrant communities have also begun to question exactly how the Trump administration will affect their lives. And the country’s growing black immigrant population, which advocates say has borne the brunt of some of the country’s harshest immigration policies, fears that it could suffer particularly severely under Trump.

Advocates point to Trump’s call for a restoration of “law and order,” his focus on “criminal aliens,” and his proposal to make nationwide use of “stop and frisk,” the highly controversial New York practice that targeted minorities disproportionately and was eventually found ineffective and unconstitutional. (Trump has since walked back his stop-and-frisk proposal after criticism.) Immigrant groups worry that these policies could prey on black immigrants, given widespread evidence of prejudice that causes people to equate blackness with criminality and black immigrants’ existing struggles in the immigration enforcement system. Trump has also used harsh rhetoric about refugees, causing concern among groups that have fled disaster and conflict zones in Haiti and parts of Africa.

Recent policy proposals to assist immigrants have focused largely on Latino groups, leaving some black immigrants to feel that their concerns aren’t being addressed by lawmakers. “People don’t look at particular communities and how they benefit within the overall immigration system,” says Francesca Menes, the policy and advocacy coordinator for the Florida Immigrant Coalition and a member of the Black Immigration Network. “When you’re black and you’re coming from a black country it is much harder for you to come into the US.”

The United States’ black immigrant population has grown considerably in recent decades. According to a report released earlier this year by the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and the New York University School of Law’s Immigrant Rights Clinic, black immigrants now account for nearly 10 percent of the nation’s black population, up from roughly 3 percent in 1980. The majority come from Africa and the Caribbean, with immigration from African countries seeing a particularly sharp increase in recent years in response to a number of humanitarian crises. While black immigrants are more likely to be in the country lawfully than some other immigrant groups, the undocumented black population is growing at a faster rate than the overall foreign-born black population. The roughly 600,000 undocumented black immigrants currently living in the United States may have cause to be especially concerned about Trump’s plans for deporting large numbers of undocumented immigrants.

“Being undocumented and black, we have the traditional issues that come with being undocumented,” says Jonathan Jayes-Green, a founder and coordinator of the UndocuBlack Network, a group that advocates for the black undocumented community. “But because we are also black we deal with the ways in which blackness is criminalized in this country.”

The Black Alliance for Just Immigration report found that black immigrants, like the black population overall, were more likely to have criminal convictions, and that as a result they were more likely than other immigrant groups to be detained by immigration officials and to be deported due to a criminal record. Although less than 8 percent of the noncitizen population in the United States is black, more than 20 percent of immigrants in deportation proceedings on criminal grounds are black. The report notes that in 2013, “more than three quarters of Black immigrants who were deported were removed on criminal grounds in contrast to less than half of immigrants overall.”

“The voices of black immigrants were not being heard in migrant rights, even as some of the most violent aspects of migration were impacting black immigrants the most,” says Ben Ndugga-Kabuye, a research and policy associate with the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. Ndugga-Kabuye attributes much of the expansion of immigration enforcement and detention to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, a bill passed as part of the Clinton administration’s tough-on-crime agenda. “The criminal justice system became the welcome mat into the immigration system, and the issues of racial profiling in the criminal justice system are replicated in the immigration system,” he says.

Many of the issues black immigrants face in the immigration enforcement system are not new. Advocates note that the focus on immigrants with criminal records intensified during the Obama administration and could become even more of an issue once Trump takes office. While the president-elect’s exact policy plans remain unclear, he has frequently discussed his desire to deport undocumented immigrants en masse and has more recently settled on the goal of deporting as many as 3 million “criminal aliens” during his first hours in office. He has also suggested that he would give more leeway to police. During the campaign, he frequently characterized black protesters reacting to instances of police violence as anti-police.

“I think our communities were already in a state of emergency under a Democratic president,” says Jayes-Green. “We are already not in the best of places, so as we think about the next administration, our community has gone into a sort of crisis control.”


Black Immigrants Brace for Dual Hardships Under Trump

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Police Departments Find Yet New Ways to Steal People’s Money

Mother Jones

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Adam Liptak tells us that the Supreme Court is pondering whether to hear a case from Ramsey County, Minnesota, which confiscates money from people it arrests. That’s what happened to Corey Statham, who was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, and then released:

But the county kept $25 of Mr. Statham’s money as a “booking fee.” It returned the remaining $21 on a debit card subject to an array of fees. In the end, it cost Mr. Statham $7.25 to withdraw what was left of his money.

….Kentucky bills people held in its jails for the costs of incarcerating them, even if all charges are later dismissed. In Colorado, five towns raise more than 30 percent of their revenue from traffic tickets and fines. In Ferguson, Mo., “city officials have consistently set maximizing revenue as the priority for Ferguson’s law enforcement activity,” a Justice Department report found last year.

….Through his lawyers, Mr. Statham declined a request for an interview. He lost in the lower courts, which said his right to due process had not been violated by the $25 booking charge or the debit card fees, which were both, the trial judge said, “relatively modest.”

Lovely. It’s OK to confiscate money as long as you don’t confiscate too much. Unless, of course, you’re engaged in civil asset forfeiture, in which case the sky’s the limit. All you have to do is attend one of the many classes that teach your police officers how best to steal people’s money under the pretense that they “just know” it’s drug money.

I continue to be gobsmacked by all of this. I’ve heard all the arguments about due process and civil vs. criminal and so forth, and not a single word of it strikes me as anything but an obvious sham. And yet courts—all the way to the Supreme Court—and judicial agencies—all the way to the Department of Justice—accept them without blinking. It’s the kind of thing that makes me wonder if I’m stuck in some kind of Kafka-based virtual reality. How can something so obviously wrong be approved with a shrug by so many people?

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Police Departments Find Yet New Ways to Steal People’s Money

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An Easy Guide to Saving Energy in Your Home

Not sure where to start when it comes to environmentally friendly home improvements? The plethora of suggestions for greening your house and reducing your utility bills is definitely good news, but it tends to leave the average homeowner a tad confused about how or even whether to implement them all. Here’s a common sense guide to help you sort out the most worthwhile and doable energy-savingimprovements.

It’s highly visible.Make a bold statement to get everyone in the family on board with your energy-saving project. A home energy monitor is perfect for this; just clip the inexpensive device onto your power cable and it will clearly display exactly how much power you’re using at a given moment.

It provides a great ROI.”Invest pennies to save dollars” is a formula that makes sound financial sense.Caulk and weatherstrippingare two very inexpensive materials that will go a long way toward greening your home. Avoid wasted energy; use these supplies to minimize leakage of heated (or in summer, cooled) air via cracks and gaps around doors, windows, faucets, and electrical switch plates.

It doesn’t seriously affect your comfort level. Install a programmable thermostat to decrease the heat whenever you are away for the day or asleep for the night. While you’re at it, make sure the temperature is set a degree or two lower than you’re used to even for those times you’ll be at home and active. Chances are that you’ll barely notice the difference.

It’s appropriately timed.If you have a major appliance such as a dishwasher that’s damaged beyond repair or approaching the end of its useful life — or if the environmental cost of running the item is greater than the price of a new one — take the opportunity to purchase an energy-efficient replacement.

It’s suitable for your area. For example,a heat pumpis a wonderfully energy-efficient way to warm your homeifyou live in a part of the country with a relatively mild climate. In a wintry northern state like Minnesota, you’ll end up wanting to supplement with less-green heat sources like electricity or natural gas.

It really counts.Replace your old HVAC system with a new Energy Star efficient version to give you more energy savings for your initial investment than, say, changing your windowpanes. To be precise, an Energy Star-certified heating and cooling system will save you approximately 30 percent annually in fuel and maintenance costs.

It offers fringe benefits.Use up to 50 percent less energy with anEnergy Star-certified washing machinethan the average top-loader. Not only that, it cleans more effectively, removes stains better, is gentler on your clothing, and reduces drying time.

It saves energy year-round. Insulate your attic to keep your home warmer in winter and cooler in summer while expending less energy. This has the added advantage of extending your roof’s lifespan.

It’s safe.Insulate your water heater to keep your water supply hotter (unless you own a hyper-efficient newer model whose factory-installed insulation has an R-value of 16 or more). Be very careful about where you apply the insulation, though. Do not cover an electric water heater’s heating-element access panels or a gas unit’s controller, pressure and temperature relief valve, and anode, or the top of the unit — which exhausts so much heat that the insulation might be set on fire.

It’s beyond simple.Save on your electricity bill with easy-to-use power strips, since they take only 61 seconds of your time: one minute to plug in a number of common devices like your printer and one second to switch them all off when they’re not needed. This reduces power vampires, which draw a surprising amount of energy even when not in use. To make life even easier, install anadvanced power strip, and you’ll no longer have to remember to switch off or unplug. The strip will do the “thinking” for you, by sensing when your tablet is fully charged or your toaster is no longer being used.

By Laura Firszt,Networx.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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An Easy Guide to Saving Energy in Your Home

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This American Trophy Hunter Allegedly Beheaded Zimbabwe’s Most Beloved Lion

Mother Jones

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Update, July 28, 4:40 p.m.: Walter Palmer released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying he “deeply regrets” killing Cecil the Lion and implied he may have been misled by local guides.

A Minnesota dentist has been identified as the big game hunter who allegedly paid $50,000 to kill Cecil the Lion, one of Zimbabwe’s most beloved animals, and a main tourist attraction for the Hwange National Park. Zimbabwean police said Walter Palmer is now being investigated for baiting the 13-year-old lion and then killing the animal with a crossbow.

“They went hunting at night with a spotlight and they spotted Cecil,” Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force’s Johnny Rodrigues said, according to The Guardian. “They tied a dead animal to their vehicle to lure Cecil out of the park and they scented an area about half a kilometer from the park.”

“He never bothered anybody. He was one of the most beautiful animals to look at,” he added.

Palmer has been accused of paying local hunters, two of whom have since been arrested, to aid the hunt. According to Zimbabwean officials, Cecil was also skinned and beheaded.

According to Minnesota’s Star Tribune, Palmer is preparing to dispute some of the allegations. “Obviously, some things are being misreported,” he said, according to the report. Palmer’s spokesman told The Guardian that “Walter believes that he might have shot that lion that has been referred to as Cecil,” but added that Palmer believed “he had the proper legal permits and he had hired several professional guides.”

News of Cecil’s killing was swiftly met with outrage on social media. Since being identified as Cecil’s alleged killer, Palmer’s dental business in Minnesota—which was closed on Tuesday—has been flooded by negative Yelp reviews condemning the allegations.


In 2009, Palmer was profiled by the New York Times for a feature on the controversial sport of trophy hunting in which he described his ambition for setting new hunting records. He told the paper he learned to shoot at the age of five. In 2008, Palmer pled guilty to lying to federal officials about where a black bear had been killed.

“We are extremely saddened by the news of Cecil the Lion being illegally killed for sport—not only from an animal welfare perspective, but also for conservation reasons,” Jeff Flocken, North American Regional Director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare said in a statement. “African lion populations have declined sharply, dropping nearly 60 percent in the last three decades.”

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This American Trophy Hunter Allegedly Beheaded Zimbabwe’s Most Beloved Lion

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Egg Prices Soar 60 Percent as Avian Flu Slams Midwest

Mother Jones

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Retail egg prices have risen from an average of $1.22 per dozen in mid-May to $1.95 this week, the US Department of Agriculture reports. That’s a 60 percent jump in just a month—a reflection of the massive toll being exacted by an avian flu outbreak that has ripped through the Midwest’s egg-laying farms.

“Highly pathogenic” to birds, but so far not to people, the strain first turned up in Oregon in last December and has since rapidly moved east to Minnesota and Iowa. It has now killed or triggered the euthanasia of 47 million birds. I go into more detail on the outbreak here and here, and evolutionary biologist Rob Wallace of the Institute of Global Studies at the University of Minnesota gives his take here.

The flu’s spread is slowing as the weather warms up (flu viruses don’t thrive in the heat), but producers in the south, where the great bulk of US chicken is grown, fear an outbreak there this fall. Last week, North Carolina’s agriculture department announced the ban of poultry shows and public live bird sales, effective Aug. 15 to Jan. 15, “due to the threat of highly pathogenic avian influenza.”

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Egg Prices Soar 60 Percent as Avian Flu Slams Midwest

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