Here comes the sun
July 30, 2014
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I have been convinced for a long while that renewable energy, particularly solar, is on a pathway to becoming the world's dominant form of energy. (And it's not just me — even Big Oil agrees that solar power will eventually win out.)

But I expected that expansion of renewables would only really begin to take off once the price of renewables fell below that of conventional fuels. And while the price of renewables is falling and falling, it still isn't cheaper in most countries (although, it is on course to be be cheaper than coal and nuclear by the end of the decade).

Still, that hasn't stopped Germany's massive solar rollout. As Brian Merchant of Vice notes: "Germany is now producing 28.5 percent of its energy — nearly a third — with solar, wind, hydro, and biomass. In 2000, renewables accounted for just 6 percent of its power consumption." Merchant adds that one day this year 75 percent of German power consumption came from renewables, smashing existing records.

Remember: This is not occurring in a small, obscure country, but in the industrial heartland of Europe.

Germany has done this by cleverly incentivizing its solar rollout. Electricity firms are obligated to pay producers of solar electricity a fixed tariff for solar-generated electricity fed back into the grid over the 20-year lifetime of the solar panels. This guarantee provides security for investors in photovoltaics, making solar economically sustainable earlier that it would otherwise be, thereby smoothing the transition to a renewable-energy economy and lowering carbon emissions.

Coming Soon
11:47 a.m. ET

Between Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey Jr., and Jonny Lee Miller, popular culture already has plenty of Sherlock Holmeses — but if you can stand one more take on the popular detective, it's hard to imagine a better actor for the job than Ian McKellan:

Mr. Holmes is based on Mitch Cullin's 2005 novel A Slight Trick of the Mind, which imagines an elderly Sherlock Holmes as he tackles one final case. "After a lifetime of detective work, there's one mystery left to solve," teases the trailer. "His own."

Mr. Holmes will hit U.K. theaters in June, with a U.S. release to follow.

Freedom of the press
11:29 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A new report from the Columbia Journalism Review suggests that relations between the White House and journalists are more guarded and unproductive than ever.

"An exhaustive study of every official exchange Obama had with the press corps in 2014, supplemented by a review of daily press briefings and interviews with more than a dozen current and former correspondents and White House press secretaries," CJR summarizes, "reveals a White House determined to conceal its workings from the press, and by extension, the public."

When press do get direct access to the president, these increasingly rare encounters are often more focused on provoking a reaction over a controversial topic than "addressing long-term accountability issues." Meanwhile, new technological resources like social media have allowed the White House, in turn, to bypass the press corps entirely and present a crafted message directly to the public without the hassle of questions from reporters.

Going to Pot
11:23 a.m. ET

You have to admire Pineapple Express star Seth Rogen's commitment to method acting. As she transitions to her new role, Sony executive Amy Pascal is moving into the office recently occupied by Rogen — but according to The Hollywood Reporter, her transition has been postponed until the smell of marijuana can be eliminated.

Sources offer conflicting thoughts over the intensity of the lingering marijuana smell Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg left behind. One says that the odor caused no "permanent damage" to the office; another says it "seeped into the flooring." In any case, Pascal will move into a temporary office while the new office is repainted and deep-cleaned.

Pascal was at the center of the whirlwind over last year's Sony hack, which was widely interpreted as a response to the Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy The Interview. Rogen once tweeted that he planned to smoke pot in the White House.

Crime and punishment
11:16 a.m. ET
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The trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev began Wednesday with prosecutors arguing that the accused believed he was "a soldier in a holy war against Americans."

In opening arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney William Weinreb described the attack's carnage in graphic detail, saying Tsarnaev hoped the bombing would help him reach "paradise."

The 21-year-old Tsarnaev faces 30 charges and a potential death sentence in the 2013 terror attack that killed three and wounded more than 260 others. The defense did not deny Tsarnaev's guilt in its opening statement, but rather argued his brother and alleged accomplice, Tamerlan, manipulated him into carrying out the attack.

Clintonia
11:13 a.m. ET
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Following the news that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's persistent use of a personal email account while in office may have violated federal transparency rules, Gawker reports that at least two of Clinton's top staffers used personal accounts for official business as well.

This revelation casts doubt on a previous statement from the Clinton camp that, "Like Secretaries of State before her, [Clinton] used her own email account when engaging with any Department officials. For government business, she emailed them on their Department accounts, with every expectation they would be retained."

The two staffers named — who may be among a bigger group of rule-skirting aides — are Huma Abedin, who served as deputy chief of staff, and Philippe Reines, who was deputy assistant secretary of state.

Munchies
10:59 a.m. ET

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, better known to you as the guys who created Ben & Jerry's ice cream, sat down with HuffPost Live to talk about ice cream  — and marijuana. A commenter suggested that the company should create a "cannabis edibles flavor," to which Cohen declared, "Makes sense to me. Combine your pleasures!"

Unfortunately for residents of states where weed is legal, Cohen's co-founder was a little more hesitant, noting that while the men have "had previous experiences with substances," and that "legalizing marijuana is a wonderful thing," Ben and Jerry actually have no control over Ben & Jerry's new flavor creations.

"We have wiser heads at the company that figure those things out," Greenfield said. "We actually don't run anything. Ben always says, 'We're just pretty faces,' and even that's a little bit of a stretch."

Watch the fast friends talk weed and ice cream in the video, below. —Sarah Eberspacher

This is incredible
10:31 a.m. ET

Nothing can stop Jan Scheuermann.

A quadriplegic patient in an experimental Pentagon robotics program, Schuermann has electrodes implanted on her brain, which allows her to control a robotic arm. Schuermann, 55, recently used the power of her thoughts to fly an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet simulator.

Arati Prabhakar, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, announced Schuermann's progress at the first annual Future of War conference last week, Defense Tech reports. Prabhakar said Schuermann's brain has tolerated the implants "very well."

The implants are on Schuermann's left motor cortex, Defense Tech explains, which allows her to use the left motor cortex to control both the right-handed and left-handed versions of the robotic arm. Once she got the hang of controlling the arm, Schuermann asked if she could control the fighter jet simulator.

"Instead of thinking about controlling a joystick, which is what our ace pilots do when they're driving this thing, Jan's thinking about controlling the airplane directly," Prabhakar told Defense Tech. "For someone who's never flown — she's not a pilot in real life — she's flying that simulator directly from her neural signaling."

Prabhakar acknowledged that the research is still "far from becoming reality," but it could have huge implications for patient restoration and neural signaling projects in the future.

Nuclear negotiations
9:38 a.m. ET
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One day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that ongoing nuclear negotiations would "pave Iran's path" to a bomb, the U.S. and Tehran announced progress toward a final deal.

"We have made some progress but have a lot of challenges yet ahead," a State Department official said, according to Reuters, following three days of talks in Switzerland.

The U.S., Iran, and world powers hope to establish a framework deal by the end of the month, which would be followed by a comprehensive agreement by June 30.

This doesn't look good
9:29 a.m. ET
ChinaFotoPress/Stringer/Getty Images

Air pollution isn't just bad for your lungs — it could also be harming children's brain development.

A new study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, found that the memories of children who live in high-pollution areas develop more slowly. The researchers spent a year studying the working memory and inattentiveness of 2,700 children aged seven to 10 at 29 schools in Spain. They found that air pollution hurt the cognitive development of children whose schools were in high-pollution areas.

Children in low-pollution schools improved their working memory by 11.5 percent over the course of a year, while children in high-pollution areas only improved their working memory by 7.4 percent. The study notes that children aged six to 10 are "particularly vulnerable" to factors that could affect brain development.

Say what?
9:12 a.m. ET
Richard Ellis/Getty Images

Ben Carson's proto-presidential campaign is off to a bizarre start after the neurosurgeon claimed Wednesday that homosexuality is "absolutely" a choice. His proof: Straight prisoners who come out of jail gay.

"A lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight, and when they come out they're gay," he said in an interview with CNN. "So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question."

Leading medical associations agree that, contrary to Carson's claim, sexual orientation is not a choice.

Carson on Tuesday launched an exploratory committee to consider a 2016 run at the White House. —Jon Terbush

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