On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: Australian PM refuses to intervene for Julian Assange

The WikiLeaks founder faces extradition to the United States on spying charges. Plus, reporter Elizabeth Weise tells us about massive solar batteries, jurors have to redeliberate in a Bill Cosby sex abuse trial, travel reporter Eve Chen considers whether travel insurance is worth it and lots of government offices are closed for Juneteenth.

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Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below.This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

Taylor Wilson:

Good morning. I’m Taylor Wilson and this is 5 Things you need to know Monday, the 20th of June, 2022. Today Assange’s extradition, plus a step to corral climate change and more.

Here are some of the top headlines:

  1. Gustavo Petro has won Columbia’s presidential runoff. The economist and former rebel beat out real estate millionaire, Rodolfo Hernández, yesterday to become the country’s first leftist president.
  2. Firefighters in Spain and Germany continue to battle wildfires. An unusual heatwave is baking parts of Europe.
  3. And Matt Fitzpatrick won golf’s U.S. Open yesterday. It’s the Englishman’s first career major win.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese earlier today rejected calls for him to publicly demand that the U.S. drop its prosecution of WikiLeaks founder and Australian citizen, Julian Assange. The British government last week ordered Assange’s extradition to the U.S. on spying charges. American prosecutors say he helped U.S. Army intelligence analyst, Chelsea Manning, steal classified diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks later published, though Manning’s sentence was commuted in 2017. Assange’s supporters and lawyers say his actions were protected by the U.S. Constitution. On Friday, Assange’s family rallied in New York, including his father, John Shipton.

John Shipton:

Australian friends find it extraordinary that the country that gave the world freedom of the press, enshrined in its Constitution in the First Amendment, today brought that freedom to an end. It’s over. All it will take is a simple telephone call from Attorney General Merrick Garland to the Home Secretary in the United Kingdom to drop these charges. That’s all it will take. It’s not complex. The complexity only arises from the continuous persecution. It can end with a phone call.

Taylor Wilson:

Assange’s lawyers are appealing the extradition, a process that may add months or even years.

There may be a new step to try and fight climate change. Batteries the size of shipping containers store cheap solar energy during the day, making it available at night when supplies lag and prices rise. Reporter Elizabeth Weise explains.

Elizabeth Weise:

So kind of exciting, and it’s actually pretty hopeful, frankly. There are increasingly, when you have renewable energy, wind or especially solar, so much solar is coming into an electric grid during the day that you may not be able to use it all, but the time you really need it is at night. The sun goes down, but everybody comes home from work. They all turn on their air conditioners and fire up the stove and they use a lot of power, and that’s exactly when you’re losing all the solar power of the day. And so the way that utilities have tended to deal with that is they have what are called peaker plants. They’re usually natural gas. There used to be coal, but not so much anymore. It’s a power plant that you only turn on at peak hours when you need an extra oomph of power, like that four hour window between, say, 5:00 and 9:00, or 6:00 and 10:00.

So what’s happening with these batteries, and we’re talking batteries the size of shipping containers, they’re big installations. They’re perfectly quiet, but they’re big, and they have gotten so cheap in the last decade and they’re projected to get even cheaper. I mean, they’re down by like 88% and they’re projected to go down another 80% in another decade. They’ve gotten so cheap that you can basically build a solar array or just plug them into your utilities grid. And during the day, when you’ve got excess solar energy coming in that you couldn’t actually use, you fill up the batteries, and then at night when the sun goes down and everybody comes home, you use those batteries to fill in that three, four hour demand. It’s called the, well, it’s kind of like the evening rush hour you can think of it for electricity, and the batteries fill that need so that you don’t need to turn on your peaker plant. You don’t need to burn fossil fuel.

The other good thing is it’s really cheap. A couple of weeks back, I went down near Monterey Bay, where they’ve just installed a large battery array, and the head of PG&E was saying, Pacific Gas and Electric, that they can charge it at $10 per megawatt during the day, and at night when they need it, if they had to buy that power, it’d be $100 per megawatt, but they charged it at $10 per megawatt. So it’s a big savings for consumers as well.

Taylor Wilson:

For Elizabeth’s full story, check out a link in today’s episode description.

After two days of deliberations, jurors in a civil trial deciding on sexual abuse allegations against Bill Cosby will have to start from scratch today. They began deliberating on Thursday after a two week trial, and the jury had reached a verdict by Friday on whether Cosby sexually assaulted plaintiff, Judy Huth, at the Playboy Mansion when she was 16 in 1975. But the judge was unable to read the verdict in time before the courthouse’s 4:30 PM closing, and deputies would not extend the workday without overtime pay. The judge had previously promised one juror that she could leave after Friday for a prior commitment, so jurors will now have to begin again with an alternate. The 84-year-old Cosby has not attended the trial. He was released from prison when his Pennsylvania criminal conviction was thrown out nearly a year ago. He has denied having sexual contact with Huth.

Is travel insurance worth it? Summer is here, and two years of pandemic uncertainty are behind us. But should you think about ensuring your flights and hotels? Consumer travel reporter, Eve Chen, considers.

Eve Chen:

Americans are expecting to spend an average of $2,644 on summer vacations. That’s 30% more than before the pandemic in 2019. According to the Vacation Confidence Index from insurance providers, Allianz Partners USA. As far as how important insurance will be, it really depends on where you’re going. You really have to look at the terms of any plan you’re looking to buy to see what’s not covered. For instance, if you’re traveling domestically, you may want to look to see if there’s any sort of emergency medical coverage, because sometimes that’s not seen as needed. A lot of insurers may expect that your regular medical insurance will cover those types of things here in the U.S., so they may not charge you for that coverage upfront because they don’t think they’ll need to offer it. You can buy it, but it’s not always included.

Another thing that’s not included, which is really important for the summer as we’re in hurricane season right now, the Atlantic hurricane season, is some hurricane coverage. Insurance is really trying to prepare for the unknown, and once a hurricane is named, it’s known. It’s known where it’s headed, and so it’s too late at that point to buy a insurance package for a trip to a destination that might be in a hurricane’s path. If you are planning to go somewhere in the Caribbean or along the shore that could be impacted by a hurricane, you’d want to buy insurance as soon as possible if you are buying travel insurance for that trip. Just because you have travel insurance, it doesn’t mean that you can cancel for any reason. There’s actually plans that are specifically cancel for any reason plans, where you have more flexibility to get back more money that you invest upfront on a trip for a multitude of reasons that are not necessarily emergencies.

But those will cost more, and that’s not most of the plans that are generally offered. And even then, you may not get all of your money back. You might only get a certain percentage of what you’ve put towards airfare, or excursions, stuff like that, accommodations.

There’s a lot of different travel insurance providers. You can comparison shop on places like Squaremouth or InsureMyTrip, but the most important thing is you want to find someone who’s part of the US Travel Insurance Association, that’s according to travel insurance experts. You just want to make sure that you have someone that’s up and up.

Taylor Wilson:

Juneteenth was celebrated yesterday around the country. It marks the events of June 19th, 1865 in Galveston, Texas, when the last Black enslaved people of the Confederacy were ordered free following the arrival of Union troops. And because Juneteenth was a Sunday, like other federal holidays that fall on a weekend, official observance shifts to today. That means many public and private schools, if not yet let out for summer, will be closed today. The same goes for post offices, non-essential government offices and stock markets. Juneteenth became the country’s newest federal holiday last year.

Thanks for listening to 5 Things. You can find us on your favorite podcast app seven mornings a week. Thanks to PJ Elliott for his great work on the show, and I’m back tomorrow with more of 5 Things from USA TODAY.

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