SpaceX wins NASA contract to develop human landing system for returning to the Moon

The winner of NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) contract award is SpaceX, which bid $2.9 billion for the privilege of developing the means by which NASA astronauts will return to the lunar surface for the first time since the Apollo program. SpaceX was in the running alongside Blue Origin and Dynetics, but reportedly undercut both those prospective suppliers considerably with its bid, according to The Washington Post.

SpaceX proposed using its Starship spacecraft, currently under development, as the landing vehicle for astronauts once they arrive at their lunar destination. The HLS is a key part of NASA’s Artemis program, which will begin with uncrewed flights, followed by a Moon fly-by with a human crew, and eventually a human lunar landing at the South Pole of the Moon, during a mission which had been targeting 2024 as its fly date.

NASA announced that SpaceX, Blue Origin and Dynetics made up the entirety of its field of approved vendors for bidding on the HLS contracts back in April last year. Since then, both Blue Origin (which bid alongside a “national team” that included Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper) and Dynetics have built full-scale models of their system and submitted proposals detailing their plans for the functional versions to NASA for consideration. Meanwhile, SpaceX has been actively testing functional prototypes of its Starship spacecraft in Texas, and is also in the process of developing the Super Heavy booster that will propel it to the Moon once it’s ready.

The plan here was for NASA to have chosen all three companies to build out initial versions in order to satisfy the early requirements of the contract, and then ultimately, it was generally thought that the agency would select a couple from the list of three to build human landers, in order to provide it with some flexibility when it comes to means of getting to the lunar surface. That’s essentially how NASA operated with its Commercial Crew program for the International Space Station, which saw awards for both SpaceX and Boeing to build astronaut transport spacecraft. SpaceX has already qualified and begun to operate its vehicle, and Boeing hopes to bring its option online either late this year or early next.

SpaceX has won a lot of trust at NASA by delivering on the Commercial Crew program with a reliable, reusable human-rated spacecraft in the Crew Dragon. The Post also says that in addition to its attractive pricing, NASA wasn’t drawn to Starship’s flexibility and cargo capacity, since it’s aiming to be able to fly not just humans, but also large quantities of supplies and materials to the Moon, and eventually, beyond.

Starship is a long way off from that goal at the moment, however; SpaceX has been quickly developing new iterations in a rapid prototyping approach to its test phase, but the most recent Starship high-altitude flight ended poorly with an explosion prior to landing. Other elements of the test program, however, including showing that Starship can successfully reorient itself in mid-air and slow its decent for landing, have been more successful on past tests. None of the tests so far have left Earth’s atmosphere, however, nor have they involved any human flight testing, both of which will require a lot more development before the spacecraft is deemed mission-ready.

SpaceX was also the launch provider chosen to deliver components of the Lunar Gateway satellite in 2024, working with Maxar, which will produce the actual Power and Propulsion Element and Habitation and Logistics Outpost. These, however, will be delivered via Falcon Heavy, which has already had multiple successful launches.

#aerospace, #artemis-program, #astronaut, #blue-origin, #boeing, #commercial-crew-program, #commercial-spaceflight, #dynetics, #international-space-station, #lockheed-martin, #northrop-grumman, #outer-space, #space, #space-tourism, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starship, #tc, #texas, #the-washington-post

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Trump Is Gone, but Land Disputes Along Border Continue Under Biden

A Texas judge allowed the government this week to take possession of a family’s land because the Biden administration has yet to end lawsuits seeking property along the border.

#alvarez-micaela-1958, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #border-barriers, #border-patrol-us, #bush-george-w, #cuellar-henry, #eminent-domain, #homeland-security-department, #immigration-and-emigration, #mayorkas-alejandro, #texas, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government

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Texas High Schoolers Set Prices for Classmates in ‘Slave Trade’ Chat

A school district in Aledo, Texas, said it had meted out “disciplinary consequences” after ninth graders assigned dollar values to students of color in private Snapchat messages.

#bullies, #cyberharassment, #discrimination, #school-discipline-students, #texas

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Corporations of the World, Unite!

The internal contradictions of “woke capitalism” are a mixed blessing for the Democratic Party.

#conservatism-us-politics, #corporate-social-responsibility, #corporations, #democratic-party, #georgia, #kemp-brian-p, #law-and-legislation, #liberalism-us-politics, #mcconnell-mitch, #presidential-election-of-2020, #republican-party, #state-legislatures, #texas, #united-states-politics-and-government, #voter-registration-and-requirements

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FBI launches operation to remotely remove Microsoft Exchange server backdoors

A Texas court has authorized an FBI operation to “copy and remove” backdoors from hundreds of Microsoft Exchange email servers in the United States, months after hackers used four previously undiscovered vulnerabilities to attack thousands of networks.

The Justice Department announced the operation on Tuesday, which it described as “successful.” It’s believed this is the first known case of the FBI effectively cleaning up private networks following a cyberattack.

In March, Microsoft discovered a new China state-sponsored hacking group — Hafnium — targeting Exchange servers run from company networks. The four vulnerabilities when chained together allowed the hackers to break into a vulnerable Exchange server and steal its contents. Microsoft fixed the vulnerabilities but the patches did not close the backdoors from the servers that had already been breached. Within days, other hacking groups began hitting vulnerable servers with the same flaws to deploy ransomware.

The number of infected servers dropped as patches were applied. But hundreds of Exchange servers remained vulnerable because the backdoors are difficult to find and eliminate, the Justice Department said in a statement.

“This operation removed one early hacking group’s remaining web shells which could have been used to maintain and escalate persistent, unauthorized access to U.S. networks,” the statement said. “The FBI conducted the removal by issuing a command through the web shell to the server, which was designed to cause the server to delete only the web shell (identified by its unique file path).”

The FBI said it’s attempting to contact owners of servers from which it removed the backdoors by email.

Assistant attorney general John C. Demers said the operation “demonstrates the Department’s commitment to disrupt hacking activity using all of our legal tools, not just prosecutions.”

The Justice Department also said the operation only removed the backdoors, but did not patch the vulnerabilities exploited by the hackers to begin with or remove any malware left behind.

Neither the FBI nor the Justice Department commented by press time.

#backdoor, #china, #computing, #cryptography, #cybercrime, #cyberwarfare, #department-of-justice, #federal-bureau-of-investigation, #hacking, #justice-department, #malware, #microsoft, #ransomware, #security, #security-breaches, #spyware, #technology, #texas, #united-states

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Amazon warns Texas: Don’t pass bill that would drive up wind power costs

Wind turbines in Colorado.

Enlarge (credit: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fallout from Texas’ statewide power outages in February continues to spread. Today, the Texas House of Representatives is scheduled to debate a bill that would require power producers to bear the costs of services that help keep the electrical grid stable.

If the bill passes, it would “unfairly shift the cost of ancillary electric services exclusively onto renewable generators rather than all the beneficiaries,” according to a letter written by the Partnership for Renewable Energy Finance (PREF), an industry group, and signed by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Goldman Sachs, and a number of other firms. 

Amazon and other big tech firms have invested heavily in renewable power, seeking to spruce up their images while cutting their power bills. Costs for wind and solar have dropped precipitously in recent years, making investments in wind farms and solar plants attractive to power-hungry data center operators like Amazon, Facebook, and Google. 

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#amazon, #grid-storage, #policy, #renewable-energy, #texas, #wind-power

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Embattled N.R.A. Chief Kept Bankruptcy Filing Secret From Deputies

Facing enforcement by the New York attorney general, the National Rifle Association’s chief executive hatched a secret plan for bankruptcy.

#ackerman-mcqueen-inc, #bankruptcies, #firearms, #gun-control, #james-letitia, #lapierre-wayne, #loesch-dana, #national-rifle-assn, #nratv, #texas

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Restaurant Workers Are in a Race to Get Vaccines

As states open vaccines and restaurants to all, wait staff and food service workers are often left behind. Some chefs have even opened pop-up spots to get their employees shots more quickly.

#bayless-rick, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-reopenings, #coronavirus-risks-and-safety-concerns, #labor-and-jobs, #restaurants, #texas, #vaccination-and-immunization, #workplace-hazards-and-violations, #your-feed-healthcare

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Crystal Mason Was Sentenced to Five Years Behind Bars Because She Voted

The G.O.P.’s war on voting has human casualties. Here’s one.

#mason-crystal-1975, #paxton-ken, #texas, #united-states-politics-and-government, #voter-fraud-election-fraud

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Doctors Sue UnitedHealthcare

A multistate group of anesthesiologists filed cases in Texas and Colorado, accusing the insurance giant of squeezing them like a “boa constrictor.”

#anesthesia-and-anesthetics, #colorado, #doctors, #health-insurance-and-managed-care, #hospitals, #suits-and-litigation-civil, #texas, #unitedhealth-group-inc, #us-anesthesia-partners-inc, #your-feed-healthcare

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Doctors Accuse UnitedHealthcare of Stifling Competition

A multistate group of anesthesiologists filed cases in Texas and Colorado, accusing the insurance giant of squeezing them like a “boa constrictor.”

#anesthesia-and-anesthetics, #colorado, #doctors, #health-insurance-and-managed-care, #hospitals, #suits-and-litigation-civil, #texas, #unitedhealth-group-inc, #us-anesthesia-partners-inc, #your-feed-healthcare

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Is It Time for an Enid Collins Revival?

Generation Etsy has dusted off the wooden box handbags she designed in the 1960s. And now her son, Jeep, is publishing a memoir.

#design, #handbags-and-purses, #texas

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Two Ex-Deputies Face Manslaughter Charges in Black Man’s Death in Texas

The former Williamson County deputies were indicted on charges that they repeatedly shot Javier Ambler with a Taser during a traffic stop despite his pleas that he could not breathe.

#ambler-javier-d-2019, #artsentertainment-network, #austin-tex, #black-lives-matter-movement, #black-people, #chody-robert, #george-floyd-protests-2020, #heart, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings, #reality-television, #stun-guns, #television, #texas, #traffic-accidents-and-safety, #traffic-and-parking-violations, #travis-county-tex, #williamson-county-tex

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SpaceX Test Rocket Goes Up and Explodes Again

Something went wrong early for Starship, with shards of metal raining down around the launch site including debris that hit one of the cameras.

#innovation, #private-spaceflight, #rocket-science-and-propulsion, #space-and-astronomy, #space-exploration-technologies-corp, #texas

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‘No Excuse Not to Be Vaccinated’ in Texas, Which Expands Eligibility to All Adults

Texas and five other states began providing coronavirus vaccines to everyone 16 and older regardless of health conditions on Monday, with other states scheduled to do the same this week.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #disease-rates, #houston-tex, #jackson-lee-sheila, #texas, #vaccination-and-immunization

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ChargerHelp raises $2.75M to keep EV chargers working

The coming wave of electric vehicles will require more than thousands of charging stations. In addition to being installed, they also need to work — and today, that isn’t happening.

If a station doesn’t send out an error or a driver doesn’t report an issue, network providers might never know there’s even a problem. Kameale C. Terry, who co-founded ChargerHelp!, an on-demand repair app for electric vehicle charging stations, has seen these problems firsthand.

One customer assumed that poor usage rates at a particular station was down to a lack of EVs in the area, Terry recalled in a recent interview. That wasn’t the problem.

“There was an abandoned vehicle parked there and the station was surrounded by mud,” said Terry who is CEO and co-founded the company with Evette Ellis.

Demand for ChargerHelp’s service has attracted customers and investors. The company said it has raised $2.75 million from investors Trucks VC, Kapor Capital, JFF, Energy Impact Partners, and The Fund. This round values the startup, which was founded in January 2020, at $11 million post-money.

The funds will be used to build out its platform, hire beyond its 27-person workforce and expand its service area. ChargerHelp works directly with the charging manufacturers and network providers.

“Today when a station goes down there’s really no troubleshooting guidance,” said Terry, noting that it takes getting someone out into the field to run diagnostics on the station to understand the specific problem. After an onsite visit, a technician then typically shares data with the customer, and then steps are taken to order the correct and specific part — a practice that often doesn’t happen today.

While ChargerHelp is couched as an on-demand repair app, it is also acts as a preventative maintenance service for its customers.

Powering up

The idea for ChargerHelp came from Terry’s experience working at EV Connect, where she held a number of roles including head of customer experience and director of programs. During her time there, she worked with 12 different manufacturers, which gave her knowledge into inner workings and common problems with the chargers.

It was here that she spotted a gap in the EV charging market.

“When the stations went down we really couldn’t get anyone on site because most of the issues were communication issues, vandalism, firmware updates or swapping out a part — all things that were not electrical,” Terry said.

And yet, the general practice was to use electrical contractors to fix issues at the charging stations. Terry said it could take as long as 30 days to get an electrical contractor on site to repair these non-electrical problems.

Terry often took matters in her own hands if issues arose with stations located in Los Angeles, where she is based.

“If there was a part that needed to be swapped out, I would just go do it myself,” Terry said, adding she didn’t have a background in software or repairs. “I thought, if I can figure this stuff out, then anyone can.”

In January 2020, Terry quit her job and started ChargerHelp. The newly minted founder joined the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, where she developed a curriculum to teach people how to repair EV chargers. It was here that she met Ellis, a career coach at LACI who also worked at the Long Beach Job Corp Center. Ellis is now the chief workforce officer at ChargerHelp.

Since then, Terry and Ellis were accepted into Elemental Excelerator’s startup incubator, raised about $400,000 in grant money, launched a pilot program with Tellus Power focused on preventative maintenance, landed contracts with EV charging networks and manufacturers such as EV Connect, ABB and Sparkcharge. Terry said they have also hired their core team of seven employees and trained their first tranche of technicians.

Hiring approach

ChargerHelp takes a workforce-development approach to finding employees. The company only hires in cohorts, or groups, of employees.

The company received more than 1,600 applications in its first recruitment round for electric vehicle service technicians, according to Terry. Of those, 20 were picked to go through training and 18 were ultimately hired to service contracts across six states, including California, Oregon, Washington, New York and Texas. Everyone who is picked to go through training are paid a stipend and earn two safety licenses.

The startup will begin its second recruitment round in April. All workers are full-time with a guaranteed wage of $30 an hour and are being given shares in the startup, Terry said. The company is working directly with workforce development centers in the areas where ChargerHelp needs technicians.

#abb, #automotive, #california, #career-coach, #ceo, #chargerhelp, #charging-stations, #driver, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #energy-impact-partners, #evs, #green-vehicles, #inductive-charging, #kapor-capital, #los-angeles, #new-york, #oregon, #sparkcharge, #tc, #texas, #transportation, #washington

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Drillers Burned Off Gas at a Staggering Rate as Winter Storm Hit Texas

Frigid temperatures last month froze pipelines and forced companies to flare vast amounts of planet-warming gases that they suddenly had nowhere to send.

#carbon-dioxide, #drilling-and-boring, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #methane, #natural-gas, #oil-and-gas-climate-initiative, #permian-basin-north-america, #power-failures-and-blackouts, #texas

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Amazon argues it’s not liable for product that severely injured toddler

Amazon argued yesterday before the Texas Supreme Court that it should not be held liable for defective products sold through its site.

Over the years, several customers have been injured by defective products they purchased on the site from third-party sellers, including one woman whose eye was blinded by a defective dog leash and another who was burned by a laptop battery. The case currently before the Texas Supreme Court involves a 19-month-old toddler who suffered permanent damage to her esophagus when she ingested a lithium-ion battery that popped out of a knockoff remote control. 

For years, Amazon has claimed that it is not liable in such cases since it functions as a middleman for sales made through its Marketplace platform.

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#amazon, #big-tech, #court-case, #liability, #policy, #texas

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Death Toll from Texas’ Winter Storm Rises to 111

Officials previously had said that the storm, which devastated the state’s power grid in February, had killed nearly 60 people.

#carbon-monoxide, #deaths-fatalities, #houston-tex, #texas, #traffic-accidents-and-safety

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The ‘Old American Dream,’ a Trap as the Floods Keep Coming

In Houston’s poorest neighborhoods, an unfamiliar winter storm stoked a familiar anguish, one fueled by recurring floods and what residents see as a pattern of neglect.

#disasters-and-emergencies, #families-and-family-life, #floods, #global-warming, #houston-tex, #hurricane-harvey-2017, #hurricanes-and-tropical-storms, #texas, #weather

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Arcadia steps in to Texas’ startup energy market with the acquisition of Real Simple Energy

On the third greatest television show of all time (sorry Rolling Stone), one of Texas’ most famous fictional football players once said, “When all the scared rats are leaving a sinking market, that’s when a real entrepreneur steps in — a true visionary.”

If that’s the case, then the startup renewable energy retail reseller Arcadia may be a true visionary. Even as energy startups servicing customers throughout the great state of Texas are forced to throw in the towel, the Washington-based, consumer-focused renewable energy power provider (based on renewable energy certificates purchased on the open market), is making an acquisition to enter the Texas market.

The company is buying Real Simple Energy, which not only marks the company’s availability in all 50 states, but gives Real Simple Energy customers access to both wind and solar power generating projects. The company said it  will leverage Real Simple Energy’s platform and expertise to secure the best rates for members, monitor for better savings, and provide a smarter yet simpler energy experience.

“Recent events in the Texas market prove that customers shouldn’t be exposed to wholesale or variable rates, and want an energy advocate to protect them,” said Kiran Bhatraju, CEO and Founder of Arcadia. “Both Arcadia and Real Simple Energy recognize the challenges Texas homeowners and renters have historically faced in the energy buying process, and we remain committed to removing these confusing barriers.”

Texans have consistently paid more for power than consumers that buy their energy from regulated market participants thanks to the state’s disastrously deregulated power markets. The combined companies are pitching fixed rate contracts to Texas consumers that won’t be vulnerable to bill spikes, but will offer average savings above the flat rates regulated utilities offer.

“The deregulated energy industry, especially in Texas, has underserved customers and as a result, most customers overpay for electricity and receive poor customer service. Using technology, we are helping customers realize the promise of deregulation and always get the best fixed rates available,” said Trent Crow, CEO of Real Simple Energy, in a statement. “As industry veterans, joining forces with Arcadia will allow us to get better deals for customers and enhance our customer experience.  We manage 100% of the energy experience and become a customer’s independent agent and advocate so they never have to worry about their electricity bill again.”

The deal is Arcadia’s first acquisition and follows the company’s launch of a community solar program all the way across the country in the great state of Maine.

#ceo, #electricity, #energy, #energy-industry, #entrepreneur, #fundings-exits, #maine, #renewable-energy, #startups, #tc, #texas, #washington

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Planting seed investments on tech’s frontiers nets KdT Ventures $50 million for its latest fund

Like other venture investors over the past year, Cain McClary, co-founder of the investment firm KdT Ventures, recently made the jump to Austin. But unlike the rest of them, he was coming from Black Mountain, NC.

McClary had spent the better part of the last three years with his co-founder Mack Healy building out a portfolio that would be the envy of almost any investor looking at financing startups whose businesses depend on innovations at the borders of current technological achievement.

Since 2017, when the firm closed on the first $3.5 million of what ended up being a $15 million fund (they had targeted $30 million), McClary and Healy managed to find their way onto the cap table of businesses like the green chemicals manufacturer, Solugen; health diagnostics technology developer, PathAI; the Nigerian genetic dataset developer, 54Gene; the novel biomaterials developer, Checkerspot; and the genetics-focused therapy company, Dyno Therapeutics. 

That portfolio — and the subsequent top decile performance that Cambridge Associates has said comes with it — has allowed McClary and Healy to close on an oversubscribed $50 million new fund to invest in promising startup companies.

KdT co-founders Cain McClary and Mack Healy. Image Credit: KdT Ventures

Hailing from a small Tennessee town outside of Leipers Fork (itself a small Tennessee town) McClary studied medicine at Tulane and business at Stanford where he linked up with Healy through a mutual friend.

Healy, who had done stints throughout big Bay Area startups like Airbnb, Databricks, and Facebook brought the software expertise (and some capital to stake the firm) while McClary provided the life sciences know-how.

Together the two men set out to hang their investment shingle at the intersection of software and life sciences that was proving to be fertile ground for new business creation. Each company in the firm’s portfolio depends on both the advances in understanding how to code computers and living cells.

McClary had left California for personal reasons when he launched the fund in 2017 and in 2020 relocated to Austin for professional ones. Healy had already set up shop in the city and it was easier, McClary said to fly out to San Francisco to look for companies from the Austin airport than it was from Ashville.

Also, both men were placing big bets on the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas to become the breeding ground for the type of entrepreneurs that the firm is looking to back.

Mack was there… the Dell Medical School and we think it’s going to be produce the types of entrpereneurs that we want to support. Houston has a med system. I firmly believe that texas has a place at the table in the future 

“The way that we define it is that we like to invest in the physical layer of the world,” said McClary. “That includes not only medicine, but chemicals and agriculture. All of that is driven by some of the things that we have this sourcecode for the physical world.”

Mapping the unmapped corners of the frontier tech startup world means that the firm not only has a presence in Austin, but has hired principals to scour Houston and Research Triangle Park in North Carolina for hot deals.

That doesn’t mean the firm is forsaking California though. One of the most recent deals in the KdT portfolio is Andes Ag, an Emeryville, Calif.-based startup that’s applying yield-boosting microbes directly to seeds in an effort to improve crop performance for farmers.

“The KdT team speaks the language of science, making them an outlier in this area of venture investing,” said JD Montgomery of Canterbury Consulting, a limited partner in KdT’s first and second fund. “They are passionate about building the science companies of the future that will tackle some of the significant challenges our world faces in the next decade and beyond.”

#54gene, #airbnb, #austin, #california, #cambridge-associates, #chemicals, #co-founder, #corporate-finance, #databricks, #dell, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #facebook, #finance, #fork, #houston, #money, #north-carolina, #partner, #pathai, #private-equity, #san-francisco, #solugen, #stanford, #startup-company, #tc, #texas, #tulane, #university-of-texas, #venture-capital

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Side raises $150M at $1B valuation to help real estate agents go it alone

Side, a real estate technology company that works to turn agents and independent brokerages into boutique brands and businesses, announced Monday that it has raised $150 million in Series D funding.

Coatue Management led the round, which brings San Francisco-based Side’s valuation to $1 billion and total funding raised to over $200 million since its 2017 inception. Existing backers Matrix Partners, Trinity Ventures and Sapphire Ventures also participated in the new financing.

The round is notable in that the amount raised is significantly higher than the $35 million Side raised in a Series C round in November 2019. Valuation too increased nearly 7x compared to the $150 million valuation at the time of its Series C. Sapphire Ventures led that investment and managing director Paul Levine, who was previously president and COO of Trulia (through its IPO and multibillion-dollar acquisition by Zillow), joined the company’s board of directors at that time.

The startup pulled in between $30 million and $50 million in revenue in 2020, and expects to double revenue this year. In 2019, Side represented over $5 billion in annual home sales across all of its partners. Today, the company’s community of agent partners represents over $15 billion in annual production volume.

Side was founded by Guy Gal, Edward Wu and Hilary Saunders on the premise that most real estate agents are “underserved and underappreciated” by traditional brokerage models.

CEO Gal said existing brokerages are designed to support “average” agents and as such, the top-producing agents end up having to do “all of the heavy lifting.”

Side’s white label model works with agents and teams by exclusively marketing their boutique brand, while also providing the required technology and support needed on the back end. The goal is to help partner agents “predictably grow” their businesses and improve their productivity.

“The way to think about Side is the way you think about what Shopify does for e-commerce…When partnering with Side, top-producing agents, teams and independent brokerages, for the first time in history, gain full ownership of their own brand and business without having to operate a brokerage,” Gal said. “When you spend years solving the problems of this very specific community of agents, you are able to use software to drive enormous efficiency for them in a way that has never been done before.”

Existing brokerages, he argues, actively discourage agents from becoming top producers and teams, because agents who serve fewer clients can be forced into paying much higher commission fees on every transaction, which means the incentives between brokerages and top agents and teams are misaligned.

“Top producers want to grow and differentiate, and brokerages want them to do less business at higher fees and be one more of the same under the same brand,” Gal said. “Side, rather than discouraging and competing with top producing agents and teams, enables them to grow and scale their own business and brand.”

Today, Side supports more than 1,500 partner agents across California, Texas and Florida.

The startup plans to spend its new capital on “significant hiring” and toward an expansion outside of California, Texas and Florida — the three markets in which it currently operates. It also plans to boost its 300-plus headcount by another 200 employees. 

#california, #coatue-management, #florida, #funding, #marketing, #matrix-partners, #real-estate, #real-estate-agents, #real-estate-technology, #recent-funding, #san-francisco, #sapphire-ventures, #side, #startups, #texas, #trinity-ventures, #venture-capital

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Border Towns Brace for More Migrants as the Border Slowly Reopens

Small towns in Texas and Arizona are seeing dozens of migrants arriving each day, in some cases straining local resources. More are coming, federal officials warn.

#asylum-right-of, #border-patrol-us, #customs-and-border-protection-us, #immigration-and-emigration, #local-government, #mayorkas-alejandro, #texas

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Surge in Migrants Defies Easy or Quick Solutions for Biden

The administration expects more apprehensions at the border this year than at any point in the past two decades. Enacting policy to deal with the problems faces deep-rooted political and logistical challenges.

#arizona, #asylum-right-of, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #border-patrol-us, #california, #children-and-childhood, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #customs-and-border-protection-us, #el-salvador, #guatemala, #health-and-human-services-department, #homeland-security-department, #illegal-immigration, #immigration-and-emigration, #mayorkas-alejandro, #mexico, #texas, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-economy, #united-states-politics-and-government

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8 Immigrants Killed in Border City Crash

The victims were riding in a pickup truck that was being chased by the police when it collided head-on with another pickup near Del Rio, Texas, the authorities said.

#deaths-fatalities, #fugitives, #illegal-immigration, #immigration-and-emigration, #mexico, #public-safety-department-tex, #sports-utility-vehicles-and-light-trucks, #texas, #traffic-accidents-and-safety, #val-verde-county-tex

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Three energy-innovation takeaways from Texas’ deep freeze

Individual solutions to the collective crisis of climate change abound: backup diesel generators, Tesla powerwalls, “prepper” shelters. However, the infrastructure that our modern civilization relies on is interconnected and interdependent — energy, transportation, food, water and waste systems are all vulnerable in climate-driven emergencies. No one solution alone and in isolation will be the salvation to our energy infrastructure crisis.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Superstorm Sandy in 2012, the California wildfires last year, and the recent deep freeze in Texas, the majority of the American public has not only realized how vulnerable infrastructure is, but also how critical it is to properly regulate it and invest in its resilience.

What is needed now is a mindset shift in how we think about infrastructure. Specifically, how we price risk, how we value maintenance, and how we make policy that is aligned with our climate reality. The extreme cold weather in Texas wreaked havoc on electric and gas infrastructure that was not prepared for unusually cold weather events. If we continue to operate without an urgent (bipartisan?) investment in infrastructure, especially as extreme weather becomes the norm, this tragic trend will only continue (with frontline communities bearing a disproportionately high burden).

A month after Texas’ record-breaking storm, attention is rightly focused on helping the millions of residents putting their lives back together. But as we look toward the near-term future and get a better picture of the electric mobility tipping point on the horizon, past-due action to reform our nation’s energy infrastructure and utilities must take precedence.

Emphasize energy storage

Seventy-five percent of Texas’ electricity is generated from fossil fuels and uranium, and about 80% of the power outages in Texas were caused by these systems. The state and the U.S. are overly dependent on outdated energy generation, transmission and distribution technologies. As the price of energy storage is expected to drop to $75/kWh by 2030, more emphasis needs to be placed on “demand-side management” and distributed energy resources that support the grid, rather than trying to supplant it. By pooling and aggregating small-scale clean energy generation sources and customer-sited storage, 2021 can be the year that “virtual power plants” realize their full potential.

Policymakers would do well to mandate new incentives and rebates to support new and emerging distributed energy resources installed on the customers’ side of the utility meter, such as California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program.

Invest in workforce development

For the energy transition to succeed, workforce development will need to be a central component. As we shift from coal, oil and gas to clean energy sources, businesses and governments — from the federal to the city level — should invest in retraining workers into well-paying jobs across emerging verticals, like solar, electric vehicles and battery storage. In energy efficiency (the lowest-hanging fruit of the energy transition), cities should seize the opportunity to tie equity-based workforce development programs to real estate energy benchmarking requirements.

These policies will not only boost the efficiency of our energy systems and the viability of our aging building stock, creating a more productive economy but will also lead to job growth and expertise in a growth industry of the 21st century. According to analysis from Rewiring America, an aggressive national commitment to decarbonization could yield 25 million good-paying jobs over the next 15 years.

Build microgrids for reliability

Microgrids can connect and disconnect from the grid. By operating on normal “blue-sky” operating days as well as during emergencies, microgrids provide uninterrupted power when the grid goes down — and reduce grid constraints and energy costs when grid-connected. Previously the sole domain of military bases and universities, microgrids are growing 15% annually, reaching an $18 billion market in the U.S. by 2022.

For grid resiliency and reliable power supply, there is no better solution than community-scale microgrids that connect critical infrastructure facilities with nearby residential and commercial loads. Funding feasibility studies and audit-grade designs — so that communities have zero-cost but high-quality pathways to constructable projects, as New York State did with the NY Prize initiative — is a proven way to involve communities in their energy planning and engage the private sector in building low-carbon resilient energy systems.

Unpredictability and complexity are quickening, and technology has its place, but not simply as an individual safeguard or false security blanket. Instead, technology should be used to better calculate risk, increase system resilience, improve infrastructure durability, and strengthen the bonds between people in a community both during and in between emergencies.

#column, #electrical-grid, #electricity, #energy, #energy-efficiency, #energy-storage, #greentech, #opinion, #tc, #texas

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InBalance Research forecasts demand for energy suppliers to ensure they optimize distribution

From distributed homes in Cambridge, Mass. and Cambridge, England, inBalance Research is joining Y Combinator as it looks to accelerate its business as the oracle for independent energy providers, utilities, and market makers.

Selling a service it calls Delphi, the very early stage startup is hoping to provide analysis for power producers and utilities on the demand forecasts of energy markets.

The orchestration of energy load across the grid has become a more pressing issue for utilities around the country after witnessing the disastrous collapse of Texas’ power grid in response to its second “once-in-a-century” storm in the last decade.

 

“If we want to address the solution longterm, it’s a two part solution,” said inBalance co-founder and chief executive, Thomas Marge. “It’s a combination of hardware and software. You need the right assets online and you need the right software that can ensure that markets operate when there are extreme market shocks.”

Prices for electricity change every 15 minutes, and sometimes those pries can fluctuate wildly. In some places, even without the weather conditions that demolished the Texas grid and drove some companies out of business, prices can double in a matter of hours, according to inBalance.

That’s what makes forecasting tools important, the company said. As prices spike, asset managers of finite responsive resources such as hydro and storage need to decide if they will offer more value to the market now or later. Coming online too early or too late will decrease the revenue for their clean generation and increase peak prices for consumers.

The situation is even worse, according to the company, if storage and intermittent renewables come online at the same time. That can create downward price pressure for both the storage and renewable assets, which, in turn, can lead to increased fossil fuel generation later the same day, once cleaner sources are depleted.

The software to predict those pressures is what inBalance claims to provide. Marge and his fellow co-founders, Rajan Troll and Edwin Fennell have always been interested in the problems associated with big data and energy.

For Marge, that began when he worked on a project to optimize operations for wind farms during a stint in Lexington, Mass.

“Fundamentally we’re a data science solution,” said Marge. “It’s a combination of knowing what factors influence every single asset on every single market in North America. We have a glimpse into how those assets are going to be working one day before to one hour before in order to do price forecasting.” 

So far, one utility using the company’s software in the Northeast has managed to curb its emissions by 0.2%. With a focus on renewables, inBalance is hoping to roll out larger reductions to the 3,000 market participants that are also using its forecasting tools for other services. Another application is in the work inBalance is conducting with a gas peaker plant to help offset the intermittency of renewable generation sources.

The reduction in emissions in New England is particularly impressive given that the company only began working with the utility there in December. Given its forecasting tools, the company is able to provide a window into which assets might be most valuable at what time — including, potentially, natural gas peaking plants, hydropower, pumped hydropower (basically an energy storage technology), battery or flywheel energy storage projects and demand response technologies that encourage businesses and consumers to reduce consumption in response to price signals, Marge said.

Already, six companies have taken a trip to see the Delphi software and come away as early users. They include a global renewable asset manager and one of the top ten largest utilities in the U.S., according to Marge.

“We use machine learning to accurately forecast electricity prices from terabytes of public and proprietary data. The solution required for daily power system stability is both hardware—like storage and electric vehicle charging—and the software required to optimally use it. inBalance exists to be that software solution,” the company said in a statement. 

 

#articles, #cambridge, #delphi, #early-stage-startup, #energy, #energy-storage, #machine-learning, #massachusetts, #natural-gas, #north-america, #renewable-energy, #smart-grid, #tc, #texas, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #y-combinator

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On Mexico’s Border With U.S.,Desperation as Migrant Traffic Piles Up

Mexico is struggling to deal with a new wave of migrants expelled from the U.S. while even more come north hoping to cross. Shelters that were empty four months ago are now having to turn many away.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #border-barriers, #customs-and-border-protection-us, #federal-emergency-management-agency, #homeland-security-department, #illegal-immigration, #immigration-and-emigration, #mexico, #smuggling, #texas, #trump-donald-j

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Biden Administration Directs FEMA to Help Shelter Migrant Children

The agency will help provide basic care as criticism mounts over the treatment of the increasing number of young migrants who have filled detention facilities at the southwest border.

#abbott-gregory-w-1957, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #border-patrol-us, #children-and-childhood, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #customs-and-border-protection-us, #federal-emergency-management-agency, #homeland-security-department, #immigration-and-emigration, #texas, #united-states-politics-and-government

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As Oil Prices Rise, Executives Aim to Keep Them High

An industry known for boom-bust cycles is resisting the temptation to pump more oil — for now.

#american-rescue-plan-2021, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #chevron-corporation, #conocophillips, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #drilling-and-boring, #international-relations, #international-trade-and-world-market, #oil-petroleum-and-gasoline, #organization-of-the-petroleum-exporting-countries, #persian-gulf, #pioneer-natural-resources-company, #prices-fares-fees-and-rates, #production, #russia, #saudi-arabia, #shale, #stocks-and-bonds, #texas, #united-states-economy, #wirth-michael-k

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Murder Warrant Issued for Austin Police Officer Who Fatally Shot Unarmed Man

The death of Michael Ramos, 42, last April touched off protests against police violence.

#austin-tex, #black-lives-matter-movement, #george-floyd-protests-2020, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings, #ramos-michael, #taylor-christopher, #texas

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With Texas’ Mask Mandate Over, Workers Worry About Encroaching Virus

Gov. Greg Abbott cited personal freedom and economic pain while relaxing coronavirus restrictions. But many are upset, especially those who take precautions and work with the public.

#abbott-gregory-w-1957, #bars-and-nightclubs, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #disease-rates, #masks, #restaurants, #texas

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Twitter sues Texas AG to stop “retaliatory” content-moderation probe

Twitter sues Texas AG to stop “retaliatory” content-moderation probe

Enlarge (credit: Thomas Trutschel / Getty Images)

Twitter is suing Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, alleging that a probe Paxton launched into its business is an act of retaliation against the platform’s choice to ban the account of former US President Donald Trump.

The suit (PDF) accuses Paxton of using his office to “intimidate, harass, and target Twitter in retaliation for Twitter’s exercise of its First Amendment rights.”

The conflict all goes back to the January 6 events at the US Capitol. At the height of the chaos, while a mob was actively storming the building, Trump took to Twitter to reiterate his false claims of electoral fraud and seemingly egg on the violence. In the following hours, Twitter deleted three tweets and suspended Trump’s account for 12 hours.

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#bad-faith, #content-moderation, #ken-paxton, #lawsuits, #policy, #section-230, #texas, #twitter

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Texas School’s Lesson on Chivalry Asked Girls to ‘Walk Daintily’ and Obey Men

A Shallowater High School assignment meant to demonstrate medieval-era misogyny was scrapped after at least one parent objected.

#discrimination, #education-k-12, #gender, #homework, #lubbock-tex, #shallowater-high-school, #teachers-and-school-employees, #texas, #women-and-girls

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A Vexing Question for Democrats: What Drives Latino Men to Republicans?

Several voters said values like individual responsibility and providing for one’s family, and a desire for lower taxes and financial stability, led them to reject a party embraced by their parents.

#arizona, #democratic-party, #florida, #hispanic-americans, #race-and-ethnicity, #texas, #trump-donald-j, #voting-and-voters

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Biden Administration Says It Will Shorten Detention of Migrant Families

A new plan calls for releasing parents and their children after no more than 72 hours. Researchers say children can show symptoms of trauma after spending long periods in custody.

#asylum-right-of, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #families-and-family-life, #illegal-immigration, #immigration-and-emigration, #immigration-detention, #mental-health-and-disorders, #mexico, #texas, #united-states

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Unmasked: When Identity Politics Turns Deadly

Will Republican politicians kill some Texans to own the libs?

#conservatism-us-politics, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #masks, #mississippi, #quarantines, #republican-party, #texas, #united-states-politics-and-government

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SpaceX launches 60 new Starlink satellites, while Starship moves closer to being able to launch up to 400 at a time

SpaceX has launched another batch of its Starlink satellites – the usual complement of 60 of the low Earth orbit spacecraft, which will join the more than 1,000 already making up the existing constellation. This is the fifth launch of Starlink satellites for SpaceX this year, and the 20th overall.

Earlier this year, SpaceX opened up Starlink access to anyone in a current or planned service area via a pre-order reservation system with a refundable up-front deposit. The company aims to continue launches like this one apace throughout 2021 in order to get the constellation to the point where it can serve customers over a much larger portion of the globe. SpaceX COO and President Gwynne Shotwell has previously said that the company expects it should have coverage over much of the globe at a constellation size of around 1,200 satellites, but the company has plans to launch more than 30,000 to fully build out its network capacity and speed.

While SpaceX is making good progress on Starlink with its Falcon 9 launcher, it’s also looking ahead to Starship as a key driver of the constellation’s growth. Starship, SpaceX’s next-generation launch vehicle currently under development in South Texas, will be able to deliver 400 Starlink satellites at a time to orbit, and it’s also being designed with full reusability and fast turnaround in mind.

The ability to launch more than six times as many satellites per mission would help SpaceX a lot in terms of the speed with which they can deploy the Starlink network, as well as the overall cost of the endeavor – assuming their cost projections about Starlink’s general affordability are even close to accurate once it becomes a high-volume production rocket. That’s definitely still at least a few years off, but SpaceX did mark a milestone on Wednesday that bodes well for its chances of making that happen.

The company’s latest Starship prototype performed its most successful test launch to date on Wednesday, taking off from SpaceX’s Boca Chica, Texas development site and flying to around 32,000 feet before executing a ‘flop’ maneuver and then reorienting itself for a soft vertical landing. The test rocket also blew up after sitting on the pad for just under 10 minutes, but despite that spectacular ending, the test proved out a lot of the basic engineering work that SpaceX needs to make Starship a reality.

Starlink is a huge, multi-year effort, so even if Starship is still a few years away from high-volume production and flight, it should still have a significant impact on the project overall. And Starlink, once operational and fully deployed, will require regular maintenance – individual satellites in the network are only really designed to be operational for ups to five years max, with regular replacements required to keep things running smoothly.


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#aerospace, #driver, #early-stage, #falcon-9, #gwynne-shotwell, #outer-space, #premier, #satellite, #satellite-broadband, #satellite-constellations, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #starship, #tc, #texas

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Texas Farmers Tally Up the Damage From a Winter Storm ‘Massacre’

The state’s agriculture sector has lost an estimated $600 million or more. Crop and livestock damage could mean shortages and higher prices beyond Texas.

#agriculture-and-farming, #citrus-fruits, #snow-and-snowstorms, #texas, #texas-am-university

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ERCOT Fires Chief Executive Bill Magness After Texas Storm

Seven board members of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas had resigned in the wake of widespread outages. Those who remained decided to fire the agency’s chief executive.

#electric-light-and-power, #electric-reliability-council-of-texas, #magness-bill, #power-failures-and-blackouts, #texas

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Biden Calls State Decisions to End Mask Mandates ‘Neanderthal Thinking’

Recent announcements by the governors of Texas and Mississippi have health officials pleading for Americans to continue social distancing and mask-wearing.

#abbott-gregory-w-1957, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-risks-and-safety-concerns, #fauci-anthony-s, #governors-us, #masks, #mississippi, #reeves-tate-1974, #texas

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SpaceX’s Starship prototype flies to 32,000 feet and sticks the landing in third flight test

SpaceX has launched SN10 – the tenth iteration of its current prototype series of Starship, the heavy-lift reusable spacecraft it’s developing. Starship SN10 took off from Boca Chica, Texas, where SpaceX is developing the vehicle. It flew to a height of roughly 10 km or 32,000 feet, before performing a maneuver to re-orient itself for a friction-assisted landing descent.

Unlike the last two Starship prototypes to fly this high, however, the roughly 6 minute flight did not end in a fireball [UPDATE: Well, not immediately. The rocket did blow up while stationary on the landing pad a few minutes after landing, potentially due to a leak]. Instead, it completed its landing flip maneuver as intended and slowed itself for a soft touchdown, with the rocket remaining vertical and intact afterwards.

This was a fantastic outcome, and a nominal one in all regards according to SpaceX’s live stream. But why the prior explosions to get to this point? That’s partly down to the way in which it’s being doing its development of this vehicle. All rocket development includes unexpected events and sub-optimal outcomes, but SpaceX has a couple of things at work that mean is efforts are subject to unusual scrutiny vs. your average spaceship manufacturer.

First, it’s doing this out in the open – the Boca Chica facility is basically just a couple small buildings, some concrete pads, some storage tanks and some scaffolding. It’s extremely close to a public roadway (which is closed during testing, while the surrounding area is evacuated), and people can and do just drive up and set up cameras to film what’s going on. That’s not at all how legacy rocket makers have typically done things.

Second, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has been adamant that SpaceX pursue a development strategy of rapid iteration and prototyping with Starship’s development. That has meant it’s manufacturing and assembling Starship prototypes simultaneously, making small changes as it goes, rather than stepping back after each test and doing a prolonged, multi-month analysis before proceeding with building and flying another version.

A launch attempt earlier in the day was cut short after a brief engine fire, when instrument readings from the rocket showed a slightly high thrust value that violated what Musk termed “conservative.” The fix that SpaceX instituted was actually adjusting the limit higher in order to avoid the abort initiation.

No doubt the company will do an investigation into the cause of the explosion that followed the successful flight and landing maneuver, but the test was still successful in all the ways that matter most for SpaceX at this stage of development. Next up for Starship is likely increasing the height of these test flights. Eventually, the goal is to reach orbit of course, but SpaceX is likely to try a few launches that remain atmospheric but far exceed this one before it attempts making that trip.

#aerospace, #ceo, #elon-musk, #hyperloop, #outer-space, #rocket, #space, #spaceflight, #spacex, #spacex-starship, #tc, #texas

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Companies Put Return-to-Work Plans in Motion

Many employers are not making a decision until many workers are vaccinated. And some are making plans for “hybrid” work arrangements.

#avison-young-inc, #bank-of-america-corporation, #boston-mass, #charlotte-nc, #chicago-ill, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #duke-energy-corporation, #fifth-third-bank, #manhattan-nyc, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #rapid7-inc, #real-estate-commercial, #renting-and-leasing-real-estate, #san-francisco-calif, #seasons-and-months, #seattle-wash, #telecommuting, #texas, #vaccination-and-immunization, #workplace-hazards-and-violations

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Leader of Texas Utility Regulator Resigns After Extensive Storm Outages

DeAnn T. Walker, the chairwoman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, had been caught in a tide of fury that swelled after millions were left without power.

#electric-light-and-power, #power-failures-and-blackouts, #public-utility-commission-of-texas, #snow-and-snowstorms, #texas, #walker-deann-t

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Too Much Choice Is Hurting America

Learning from subprime, health care and electricity.

#conservatism-us-politics, #electric-light-and-power, #health-insurance-and-managed-care, #income-inequality, #pensions-and-retirement-plans, #poverty, #regulation-and-deregulation-of-industry, #subprime-mortgage-crisis, #texas

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Texas After the Storm

Even as the cold has lifted and the ice has melted, the true depth of the devastation remains hidden. We look at the aftermath of the storm through the eyes of three women.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #electric-light-and-power, #power-failures-and-blackouts, #texas

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What Is Delta-8-THC?: The Hemp Derivative That’s a Hot Seller

A once-ignored derivative of hemp has become a hot seller for people looking for a loophole around marijuana laws.

#cannabis-foods-and-products, #drug-abuse-and-traffic, #farm-bill-us, #georgia, #hashish, #hemp, #law-and-legislation, #marijuana, #medical-marijuana, #regulation-and-deregulation-of-industry, #texas

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This Drug Gets You High, and Is Legal (Maybe) Across the Country

A once-ignored derivative of hemp has become a hot seller for people looking for a loophole around marijuana laws.

#cannabis-foods-and-products, #drug-abuse-and-traffic, #farm-bill-us, #georgia, #hashish, #hemp, #law-and-legislation, #marijuana, #medical-marijuana, #regulation-and-deregulation-of-industry, #texas

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Biden Visits Storm-Battered Texas and Vows Federal Help ‘For the Long Haul’

The overwhelming nature of grief has been the unofficial theme this week for a White House confronted with a disaster in the nation’s second largest state amid a pandemic.

#biden-jill-tracy-jacobs, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #disasters-and-emergencies, #houston-tex, #texas, #turner-sylvester, #united-states-politics-and-government

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