March 25, 2014

Solar power is now as cheap as traditional energy sources in Italy and Germany, according to a new report. In terms of LCOE — or "leveled cost of energy," which weighs everything that effects a given energy source's price from installation to maintenance — solar has achieved "grid parity" in those places thanks in part to a combination of cheap installation costs, high electricity prices, and government subsidies.

Meanwhile, the cost of solar power in the U.S., though it has fallen off a cliff since the late 1970s, remains relatively high. So what gives? Why can't we have cheap, clean solar power, too?

A big part of it has to do with demand. In 2011, Germany boasted more than 21 times the solar power, per capita, of the U.S, which helped to drive down the price. And given that imbalance, American companies had a comparatively tougher task recruiting customers, so they spent 10 times as much as their foreign counterparts did on marketing costs.

But the biggest factors keeping American solar from catching up are so-called "soft costs," which include everything from fees and taxes to company overhead. For instance, while German installers added $1.20 per watt to the cost of each panel in 2011, American companies added $4.36 per watt. And according to the Department of Energy, soft costs make up 64 percent of the price tag on installing residential solar systems in the U.S. Jon Terbush

7:53 a.m. ET
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Sen. Ted Cruz's chances of stopping Donald Trump from clinching the Republican presidential nomination appear slimmer than ever in a new national poll by NBC News/Survey Monkey out Tuesday, the day of the fateful Indiana GOP primary. At 56 percent support, Trump more than doubles Cruz's 22 percent, winning what Politico reports is a "new high among Republicans." Ohio Gov. John Kasich lags far behind with 14 percent. Another 7 percent of respondents remain undecided.

Trump's new high marks a six-point jump from his support in last week's NBC News/Survey Monkey poll, in which he broke 50 percent for the first time. Cruz's latest numbers, on the other hand, indicate a continuing decline. Last week, he sat four points higher with 26 percent.

The poll surveyed 14,640 adults between April 25 and May 1. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points. Becca Stanek

7:52 a.m. ET
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The United Arab Emirates has Ferrari World, China lays claim to the Dwarf Empire, and in Argentina you can visit the The Republic of Children. Not to be outdone, Brazil is now planning its own wild and wacky amusement park — and the theme is sex.

The adults-only theme park, ErotikaLand, is planned for the city of Piracicaba, which sits about two hours outside of São Paulo, The New York Times reports. While ErotikaLand won't open until 2018, some have already protested that it is sending the wrong message.

"We cannot be known as the capital of sex," Piracicaba City Council member Matheus Erler said.

Admission will cost $100 and allow access to a "7D" cinema, where the seats vibrate, as well as to a "train of pleasure" with gogo boys and girls, a nudist pool, a "sex playground," bumper cars shaped like genitalia, and a snack bar selling aphrodisiacs. Sex inside the park will not be allowed, however.

"If attendees want to take things to another level, they can go to a nearby motel — which we will operate," the businessman heading the project, Mauro Morata, said.

The park has other perks for the community too, Morata points out. It will bring in 250 new jobs, for starters. It will also teach attendees about healthy, safe sex — employees will promote condom use, and a museum will teach visitors about the history of sexuality.

"This won't be a place for nuns, but it's not like we're trying to recreate Sodom and Gomorrah," Morata said. Jeva Lange

7:27 a.m. ET

Tuesday is primary day in Indiana, and Ted Cruz has thrown everything he has into winning the state and stopping Donald Trump's string of victoires. He has spent days campaigning there — and seen his lead over Trump turn into a 15-point deficit, Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show. "Wow, it's almost as if spending time there campaigning hurt him," Colbert said. "Well, you know what they say about Ted Cruz: To know him is to wish you didn't." He marveled over John Boehner calling Cruz a "miserable son of a bitch" and "Lucifer in the flesh," adding, "And Boehner clearly knows Lucifer, because they go to the same tanning salon."

Colbert ended his survey of Cruz's Hoosier humiliation with a clip of the candidate berating a young boy heckling him, suggesting he be spanked for his bad manners. "You know things aren't looking good for the Cruz campaign when they're trying out a new slogan," Colbert said: "Ted Cruz '16 — He Hits Kids."

You can watch the beginning part of Colbert's "Road to the White House" segment below. It focuses on Trump's foreign policy speech last week, and has a joke aimed squarely at grammar nerds: "Trump is so dedicated to putting America first that he will be president of America, the United States of." Peter Weber

6:47 a.m. ET
Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that a U.S. serviceman was killed "in the neighborhood of Erbil," the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. "It is a combat death, of course, and a very sad loss," Carter said in Stuttgart, Germany, where he is meeting with NATO allies. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) also released a brief statement, saying the unidentified "coalition service member was killed in northern Iraq as a result of enemy fire."

A U.S. military official tells The Associated Press that the serviceman was killed by "direct fire" while advising Kurdish Peshmerga troops, after Islamic State fighters broke through the Kurds' forward line. He was two to three miles behind that line, the official tells AP. On Tuesday, CBS News adds, U.S. and coalition aircraft were helping local forces attack ISIS north of Mosul, about 50 miles west of Erbil. Peter Weber

6:16 a.m. ET
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On Tuesday, Indiana votes in the Democratic and Republican primaries, but the main drama is between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Campaigning in Indianapolis on Monday, Trump said that if he wins, as recent polls suggest he will, Cruz should drop out. "Indiana is very important, because if I win that's the end of it," he said. "It would be over." Cruz, also in Indiana, vowed to stay in the race, but appeared to leave a little wiggle room for an exit. "I am in for the distance, as long as we have a viable path to victory," he told reporters. Indiana has 57 GOP delegates at stake.

Trump has been helped in Indiana by his focus on trade, especially on Carrier moving its Indianapolis air conditioner factory to Mexico; his sports celebrity endorsements; and a growing air of inevitability after having won the last six contests, The Washington Post says. "You cannot underestimate the impact that Trump winning all counties last week in the 'Acela primary' had on Indiana," veteran GOP strategist Scott Reed tells The Post. "A month ago, Cruz was leading Trump by 20 percent in Indiana. Trump's wins, coupled with landing his plane in state, have driven voters into his column."

On the Democratic side, the stakes are seen as lower; neither Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders will be in the Hoosier State on Tuesday. Peter Weber

4:38 a.m. ET

On Monday's Late Show, Stephen Colbert asked his Fox News frenemy Bill O'Reilly what he thought about Tuesday's Indiana primary, and O'Reilly didn't stop talking for the next five minutes. He began by saying that the primaries have been over since Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton won their respective New York primaries, and Indiana doesn't really matter. "Feel the Bern all you want, but the Bern's going to be in the refrigerator and Clinton's going to be the nominee," he said. If Trump doesn't win Indiana, it will give Ted Cruz "a little thing to hang on to," O'Reilly added, "but it's still going to be Trump."

Colbert managed to ask O'Reilly if, since he has known Trump for years, he's "comforted" to think Trump will be one of two candidates in the general election. "I'm not arrogant enough to say that this person or that person isn't qualified," O'Reilly said. "The people in the Republican Party want Donald Trump for one reason: They want to blow the whole establishment up. That's why he's gotten where he's gotten." O'Reilly, it seems, shares that view. He said conservatives are upset because they believe progressives — "your crew," he told Colbert — have won the culture war. (The audience cheered). "They don't like what the country is becoming." When Colbert asked for an example, O'Reilly brought up the illegal immigrant who killed a woman in San Francisco.

You can watch below to hear O'Reilly's entire treatise on why Donald Trump is winning, or you can watch to see Colbert defang O'Reilly's bloviating just enough that the audience doesn't boo him until the very end. Either way, it's good television. Peter Weber

4:07 a.m. ET

Larry Wilmore's edgy comedy routine at Saturday night's White House Correspondents' Dinner wasn't a big hit in the room, earning Wilmore comparisons to the 2006 WHCD speech by the man whose slot he took at Comedy Central, Stephen Colbert. Colbert stood up for his good friend on Monday's Late Show. "He stunned that room," Colbert said of Wilmore. "People in Washington aren't used to seeing two black men speaking at the same event."

At the end of his WHCD routine, Wilmore used the N-word in reference to President Obama, "and it was shocking," Colbert said, "but it did lay the groundwork for President Trump to say it next year." (Obama wasn't offended, the White House said Monday.) "I thought Larry gave a great speech that did not let the president or the press off the hook," he added, "and I am confident that Larry will receive the ultimate recognition for his work: Never being invited back." Colbert should know. Watch him defend Wilmore, mock the TSA, discuss Bitcoin, and drop some interesting suggestions for the Ringling Bros. elephants now that they no longer have to perform in the circus. Peter Weber

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