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Associated Press photos
Warren Buffett, right, greets Gov. Mike Pence on Monday.

Furthermore …

The Rev. William Barber speaks during this week’s Moral Monday protest in Raleigh, N.C.

Buffett vision for energy at odds with state’s

Indiana officials were giddy over Warren Buffett’s appearance at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new GEICO building in Carmel. But they probably were none too pleased by the famed CEO of Berkshire Hathaway’s comments about Indiana coal at the event.

“Coal will gradually decline in importance,” Buffett said, according to a WFYI-FM radio report. “And, of course, when natural gas prices get low enough, you have a big switch-over. There aren’t any new coal plants being built now, so you will see gas-fired plants, you’ll see wind, you’ll see solar.”

Indiana gets 90 percent of its electric power from coal-fired power plants. And state leaders have long been resistant to measures encouraging renewable energy development or becoming less dependent on coal.

“If Warren Buffett, the most successful investor of our lifetime, is forecasting the transition away from coal nationwide, then certainly our elected leaders and electric providers in Indiana should ensure that our state is making the sound transition from dirty coal-fired power plants to affordable and abundant clean-energy sources like wind and solar,” said Jodi Perras, Indiana campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, in a statement.

Anti-torture assurance has Russia wary

Remember during the Iraq war when people twisted themselves all in knots trying to justify U.S. actions with prisoners of war and others? Some of the measures used on U.S. prisoners, such as waterboarding, were justified because of what the Americans were trying to get. And in any event, those measures – enhanced interrogations – were not torture, or so their defenders claimed.

Now the United States may have to pay the price of such dissembling. The attorney general sent a letter to the Russian minister of justice as part of an effort to get Edward Snowden back. Eric Holder was trying to allay reported Russian concerns about how Snowden might be treated if he were deported to the U.S.

“I can report that the United States is prepared to provide to the Russian government the following assurances regarding the treatment Mr. Snowden would face upon return to the United States,” Holder wrote. “First, the United States would not seek the death penalty for Mr. Snowden should he return to the United States.” In addition, “Mr. Snowden will not be tortured,” Holder’s letter said. “Torture is unlawful in the United States.”

Yes, it is unlawful, unconstitutional even. But some prisoners swept up in the war on terror were subjected to enhanced interrogations. Others were sent to prisons overseas where constitutional protections don’t exist or are ignored.

Will a country like Russia, which knows full well that prison officials are capable of torture, trust Holder’s word, given recent history?

Just another Moral Monday

They haven’t garnered the same attention as Wisconsin’s Statehouse protests, but a determined group of North Carolina residents has forcefully observed “Moral Monday” over the past three months to highlight laws they believe are destructive.

More than 70 people were arrested at the North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh last week. To date, their protests have resulted in 925 arrests.

“The goal of Moral Monday,” the Rev. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, told The Nation, “is to dramatize the shameful condition of our state.”

Last week’s protest targeted a voter ID law even more restrictive than Indiana’s tough law – North Carolina’s severely limits the list of acceptable identification and targets college-age voters by requiring them to have their vehicles registered at the same address as their voter registration. Another new law penalizes parents by taking away a $2,500 tax deduction if their child registers to vote at a college address rather than the parents’ address.

Republicans took control of the generally moderate legislature in 2010, pushing through bills to end federal unemployment benefits, shift $90 million from public schools to vouchers, slash taxes, eliminate gun restrictions in public places and more.

GOP lawmakers have so far ignored the protests, but a left-leaning poll found 47 percent of North Carolina residents approved of the Moral Monday protests, compared to just a 41 percent approval rating for the legislature.