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Why the problem of fixing our buildings is so vague-and what we can do about it We're hardwired to address the smaller problems that we can...

Why the problem of fixing our buildings is so vague-and what we can do about it

We're hardwired to address the smaller problems that we can see, rather than the big ones that we can't imagine. There's no better-or more important-example of that problem than the current debate over energy use.I'd wager that if you polled even well-informed citizens, they'd rank fuel efficiency as the number one problem we face, in trying to reduce carbon emissions. And I'd bet that, if in this very column you're reading, I went on to talk about all the ways cars are destructive to the environment, not a single person would respond: But how important is that, really?But the plain fact, as Mother Jones points out, is that buildings, in the electricity they use to run and the materials they require to build, are responsible for nearly half of our nation's carbon footprint. Transportation? Twenty-seven percent. So it's safe to say that while transportation is crucial, we can't solve our carbon problem if we fail to address the energy we use in our buildings.And yet the fuel efficiency of cars dominates headlines and op-eds, while discussions of carbon-neutral electricity-when they happen-treat it more like something that's nice to have rather than the single biggest problem at hand. Why is that?Cars and transportation grab our attention because there are so many numbers, and so much concrete evidence of the problem in front of us. We can grouse about the SUV idling on the curb; we can curse Detroit and its hidebound, handout-loving executives; and we can easily see the anemic fuel efficiency of American cars. We pay for it every time we see the dollars scroll past at the gas pump. The problem therefore seems much more urgent, because it's much more real and immediate.Compare that to the electricity you burn at home. It's created far away, beneath smoke stacks you never see or smell. The energy you consume at home is nothing but a line item that arrives in the mail, once a month. All of the intermediate processes occur in an opaque infrastructure dreamland. At best we have a vague sense that we should be doing better.To be sure, there are ways being created to address those problems: That's the point of the so-called smart grid you keep hearing about, and the at-home, real-time energy monitoring it would make possible. Alternative energy is rising in our consciousness-even if it seems particularly prone to green-washing from BP and the like. What's missing is a way for us to do something about it in our own buildings. Mass solutions there are hard to imagine because, unlike our cars, our buildings aren't the product of a few manufacturers. They're the product of the building industry, one of the most diffuse and least coordinated imaginable. How do you get so many millions of people and businesses to change themselves at a meaningful scale, and fast?So far the basic approach has been familiar. Take the Clinton Climate Initiative, which just announced that it's partnering with local governments and property developers in 16 community projects, based in over a dozen cities around the world. This may sounds terrific, but it leaves me cold because these sorts of top-down efforts often trickle down to nothing. It's easy to build one green building with solar panels and grey-water recycling. What's harder is convincing everyone else to do the same. That's the real work, and that's what has to happen to make an actual impact.And that's why the 14X Stimulus Plan is so interesting. Santa Fe-based architect Edward Mazria, who heads Architecture 2030, proposes that instead of directly funding building renovations, we incentivize them, through the $6.3 billion in energy-efficiency grants that'll begin flowing this June.As Mother Jones reports, cities would offer homeowners and private business the chance to refinance their buildings at a lower interest rate, with one caveat: The more your interest-rate goes down, the more efficiency upgrades you have to make. Architecture 2030 estimates that a family paying six percent on a $230,000 loan could install a $20,000 system of solar panels and save $425 a month.The "14X" name came about because Mazria estimates that for every stimulus dollar spent on his plan, $14 in economic activity would be created in the building sector and beyond (a compounding effect that's well-documented for incentive programs). Every $1 would also generate $3 in federal taxes, and $1 in local taxes. And, according to Mazria, if you simply spend $3.2 billion building green infrastructure directly, you create 49,486 green jobs. But if you spend it on 14X's interest-rate based incentives, you create 692,800. Maybe those numbers are high, but that's about as close to a magic bullet as you'll ever get in public policy.Banks, the Department of Energy, and a slew of mayors are already excited about the plan. You can actually sign a petition supporting it here.With any luck, it'll make the solutions to our building problem as utterly concrete-and as unavoidable-as the fuel efficiency of the car you drive. But moreover, it should serve as a template in how we think about solving the biggest problems we face-and nothing less.

The Justice Department sent immigration judges a white nationalist blog post

The blog post was from an "anti-immigration hate website."

Attorney General William Barr via Wikimedia Commons

Department of Justice employees were stunned this week when the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) sent court employees a morning briefing that contained a link to a "news" item on VDare, a white nationalist website.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, VDare is an "anti-immigration hate website" that "regularly publishes articles by prominent white nationalists, race scientists and anti-Semites." The website was established in 1999 by its editor Peter Brimelow.

The morning briefing is distributed to all EOIR employees on a daily basis, including all 440 immigration judges across the U.S.

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via Smithfly.com

"Seventy percent of the Earth is covered with water, now you camp on it!" proudly declares Smithfly on the website for its new camping boat — the Shoal Tent.

Why have we waited so long for camping equipment that actually lets us sleep on the water? Because it's an awful idea, that's why.

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We've all felt lonely at some point in our lives. It's a human experience as universal as happiness, sadness or even hunger. But there's been a growing trend of studies and other evidence suggesting that Americans, and people in general, are feeling more lonely than ever.

It's easy to blame technology and the way our increasingly online lives have further isolated us from "real" human interactions. The Internet once held seemingly limitless promise for bringing us together but seems to be doing just the opposite.

Except that's apparently not true at all. A major study from Cigna on loneliness found that feelings of isolation and loneliness are on the rise amongst Americans but the numbers are nearly identical amongst those who use social media and those who don't. Perhaps more importantly, the study found five common traits amongst those who don't feel lonely.

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He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

He risked his life to leave a "historical record of our martyrdom."

via Yad Vashem and Archive of Modern Conflict, 2007

In September 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland. By April 1940, the gates closed on the Lodz Ghetto, the second largest in the country after Warsaw.

Throughout the war, over 210,000 people would be imprisoned in Lodz.

Among those held captive was Henryk Ross. He was a Jewish sports photographer before the Nazi invasion and worked for the the ghetto's Department of Statistics during the war. As part of his official job, he took identification photos of the prisoners and propaganda shots of Lodz' textile and leather factories.

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WITI Milwaukee

Joey Grundl, a pizza delivery driver for a Domino's Pizza in Waldo, Wisconsin, is being hailed as a hero for noticing a kidnapped woman's subtle cry for help.

The delivery man was sent to a woman's house to deliver a pie when her ex-boyfriend, Dean Hoffman, opened the door. Grundl looked over his shoulder and saw a middle-aged woman with a black eye standing behind Hoffman. She appeared to be mouthing the words: "Call the police."

"I gave him his pizza and then I noticed behind him was his girlfriend," Grundl told WITI Milwaukee. "She pointed to a black eye that was quite visible. She mouthed the words, 'Call the police.'"

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