Solar power!
July 22, 2014

On Sunday, the eldest resident of Dharnai, India, flipped a switch and the village officially joined the age of electricity. But Dharnai, in India's northeastern Bihar state, did more than join a reliable energy grid — it became India's first village powered entirely by solar electricity. A few months ago, Greenpeace and two other NGOs that work in the area (BASIX and CEED) started building a solar power micro-grid to serve the village, and after a few months of testing, the autonomous 100 kilowatt system officially went online this past weekend.

The Dharnai grid serves about 450 homes, housing 2,400 residents, Greenpeace says, as well as roughly 50 businesses, streetlights, water pumps, two schools, health care center, and other public and private ventures. It has a battery to store excess electricity, for use during the sunless hours.

Germany reaching the milestone of (at least briefly) meeting more than half its electricity needs through solar is probably a bigger feat, but The Week's Ryan Cooper argues that projects like this in India and China will do more over the long term to counter the harmful climate effects of fossil fuel consumption.

And bringing reliable electricity to a town or village for the first time feels like a much bigger deal than switching from nuclear to solar power. It changes every aspect of life, from safety and health to entertainment and economic progress. Earlier this month, Andrew Satter at the Center for American Progress detailed what getting power for the first time does to villages in India, and Greenpeace does something similar in this video from newly solar-powered Dharnai. --Peter Weber

say yes to the dress?
11:46 a.m. ET

If you've spent any time on the internet within in the last 24 hours, you've likely heard about "The Dress." 

The fierce debate all started thanks to a Tumblr post from user swiked, who posted a photo of a dress and asked, "guys please help me — is this dress white and gold, or blue and black? Me and my friends can’t agree and we are freaking the f--k out."

(swiked/Tumblr)

The debate raged. Celebrities weighed in. We learned that The Dress is actually black and blue, but that the lighting in the photo affects how we perceive its colors. Wired asked a neuroscientist to help explain the phenomenon:

Without you having to worry about it, your brain figures out what color light is bouncing off the thing your eyes are looking at, and essentially subtracts that color from the "real" color of the object. "Our visual system is supposed to throw away information about the illuminant and extract information about the actual reflectance," says Jay Neitz, a neuroscientist at the University of Washington. "But I've studied individual differences in color vision for 30 years, and this is one of the biggest individual differences I’ve ever seen." [Wired]

CNN confirmed The Dress' colors on the air, and Amazon reviewers started posting snarky comments on the item's page. And news outlets everywhere struggled to wring more meaning out of the story as The Dress Debate raged on. 

Perhaps the one thing we can agree on is The Dress' overnight rise to popularity of insane proportions: At the time of publication, BuzzFeed's meme-launching original post on The Dress had upwards of 27 million pageviews. 

Discoveries
11:13 a.m. ET

Talk about a good deal.

James Balme, an English archaeologist, stumbled upon a "garden stone" for sale on a charity website for about $19. But the stone is likely not a garden stone at all — Balme believes it is a 3,000-year-old personal seal, or cartouche, of the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II. Ramses II, also known as Ramses the Great, ruled Egypt from 1279 to 1213 B.C.E., Ancient Origins notes.

Experts are now analyzing the stone cartouche and its hieroglyphics to determine whether it was, indeed, Ramses' seal. One side of the seal is carved with the depiction of a seated man with a scarab beetle and an eagle, along with a sun disk. The other side bears writing in hieroglyphics.

Ramses' original burial site was looted by grave robbers, according to Ancient Origins, so it's possible the seal has migrated far away from its original owner. His mummy is now displayed in Egypt's Cairo Museum.

Only in America
11:06 a.m. ET
iStock

A Utah woman has been cleared to sue herself for killing her husband in a car accident. Barbara Bagley accuses herself of negligence in the 2011 roll over of the family Range Rover. A court ruled that Bagley, as the representative of her husband’s estate, can sue Bagley as the driver so she can seek insurance damages. "The jury will be highly confused," insurance company lawyers argued.

RIP
9:58 a.m. ET

On Thursday, minutes after setting up a meeting with reporters from The Associated Press and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich fatally shot himself in what police are calling an "apparent suicide." Schweich, 54, had recently announced his campaign for the Republican Party's gubernatorial nomination, and he told the AP reporter that he planned to go public Thursday afternoon with allegations that the chairman of the Missouri Republican Party had started an anti-Semetic "whisper campaign" to sink his campaign.

Schweich is Episcopalian; his grandfather was Jewish. In his conversations with AP, he said that Missouri Republican Party Chairman John Hancock — a political consultant elected last Saturday — had casually mentioned in phone calls that Schweich was Jewish. He wanted Hancock to step down.

Hancock denied that he was being anti-Semetic. "I don't have a specific recollection of having said that, but it's plausible that I would have told somebody that Tom was Jewish because I thought he was," he told AP, "but I wouldn't have said it in a derogatory or demeaning fashion." Schweich was also already the subject of attack ads on the radio. Post-Dispatch editorial page editor Tony Messenger, who knew Schweich, explained why the Jewish whispers disturbed the auditor so much:

Missouri is the state that gave us Frazier Glenn Miller, the raging racist who last year killed three people at a Jewish community center in Kansas City. It's the state in which on the day before Schweich died, the Anti-Defamation League reported on a rise of white supremacist prison gangs in the state. Division over race and creed is real in Missouri Republican politics, particularly in some rural areas. Schweich knew it. It's why all week long his anger burned. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

Schweich is being remembered by his colleagues as a brilliant and devoted public servant.

Caught red-handed
9:54 a.m. ET
(AP Photo/U.S Department of Justice)

U.S. authorities seized a stolen Picasso painting at the Port of Newark, and it will be returned to its home at France's National Museum.

U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch filed papers to forfeit the cubist painting, "La Coiffeuse," which was taken from a storage unit at the Centre Georges Pompidou in 2001.

The painting was shipped to the U.S. via Federal Express from Belgium in December, and it was on its way to a climate-controlled storage facility in Queens. The original shipment had described its contents as a $37 "art craft."

"A lost painting has been found," Lynch said in a statement. The sender and recipient have not been publicly identified.

I can bearly handle the cuteness
9:42 a.m. ET

International Polar Bear Day has a more serious objective than "Hey, look at these cute creatures!"

Popularized by Polar Bears International, the 10-year-old holiday aims to raise awareness about the dangers to polar bears' survival caused by Arctic warming. You can read more about those initiatives here, but remember: Polar bears are cute creatures, so don't feel bad about taking a second to enjoy the photos, below, too. —Sarah Eberspacher


White Island, Canada. | (Paul Souders/Corbis)



Tierpark Hellabrunn, Munich, Germany. | (REUTERS/Michael Dalder)



Brookfield Zoo, Illinois. | (Scott Olson/Getty Images)



San Francisco Zoo, California. | (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)



London Zoo's famous polar bear "Pipaluk" in 1968. | (Ron Case/Keystone/Getty Images)

For those who have everything
9:37 a.m. ET
Courtesy Photo

Step up your office hoops game with the Killspencer Indoor Mini Basketball Kit ($795). Created by designer Spencer Nikosey, who specializes in luxury leather backpacks and duffel bags, the basic set includes a matte-black, solid maple backboard and a supple black leather net. Each 2-foot-tall backboard mounts to a wall with a cleat assembly system. A miniature rubber basketball is included, but you can buy a black leather mini basketball for $300. An upgrade to the 24-karat, gold-plated rim with gold-foil skirt costs $200.

Coming Soon
9:28 a.m. ET
Facebook.com/BladeRunner

Harrison Ford just can't escape his past. Seven years after playing an older Indiana Jones in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — and less than a year away from his performance as an older Han Solo in Star Wars: Episode VII — Ford is set to reprise the role of Rick Deckard in a sequel to 1982's Blade Runner.

The Blade Runner sequel, which takes place "several decades" after the original, will be directed by Denis Villeneuve, best known for Prisoners and Enemy. Ridley Scott, who directed Blade Runner, will produce.

ISIS
8:47 a.m. ET
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

In an interview with ABC News' Pierre Thomas, Attorney General Eric Holder said the U.S. is "working on" a plan to either kill or capture the ISIS member known as "Jihadi John." Yesterday, The Washington Post published an interview in which several sources claim to have identified "Jihadi John" as Mohammed Emwazi, a young man from London.

"Jihadi John" appears in several of ISIS' videos, in which the terrorist group beheads hostages. Holder declined to confirm that Emwazi was "Jihadi John," though, saying the confirmation would "cut back the operation possibilities" the U.S. is considering. He did say, however, that "Jihadi John" will "be brought to justice in some fashion."

"The vow that I can make to the American people, along with our allies, is that we will hold accountable all the people who have been responsible for these heinous, barbaric acts," Holder said. "That is something that we are focused on each and every day."

POTUS listens
8:20 a.m. ET

Friday's weekly StoryCorp interview featured Noah McQueen, 18, and a special interviewer, President Obama. McQueen — part of the president's year-old My Brother's Keeper initiative, a program for young men of color — started out talking about his unstable childhood and run-ins with the law.

"Did you know your dad?" Obama asked. When McQueen said yes "but, you know, he's down the street," and he didn't have a relationship with him, the president brought up his own absent father: "Well, that's one of the things we have in common. As I get older, I start reflecting on how that affected me. How do you think that affected you?" You can listen to the whole interview below, and it's worth it to hear McQueen talk about his pivotal trip to a Christian retreat:

Obama isn't the first sitting president to do a StoryCorps interview, the organization notes: George W. Bush and Laura Bush sat down with Bush's sister, Dorothy Bush Koch, after the 2008 election.

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