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April 2012

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Moscow looks awesome from space

NASA's image of the day today is a night shot of Moscow, seen framed by the Aurora Borealis and the solar panels of the International Space Station.

Read more: Cities

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Traditional Chinese medicine contains endangered animals, carcinogens

Traditional Chinese medicine shop in Hong Kong. Photo by Mailer Diablo.

It’s probably best not to make all your meals out of pink slime and enriched HFCS, but a word to the wise: “Natural” doesn’t always mean safe. A new DNA analysis reveals that traditional Chinese medicine often contains carcinogens and other poisons not listed on the label.

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Joel Salatin responds to New York Times’ ‘Myth of Sustainable Meat’

The following post originally appeared on the Polyface Farms Facebook page.

Cows at Polyface Farm. Photo by Amber Karnes.

The recent editorial by James McWilliams, titled "The Myth of Sustainable Meat," contains enough factual errors and skewed assumptions to fill a book, and normally I would dismiss this out of hand as too much nonsense to merit a response. But since it specifically mentioned Polyface, a rebuttal is appropriate. For a more comprehensive rebuttal, read the book Folks, This Ain't Normal.

Let's go point by point. First, that grass-grazing cows emit more methane than grain-fed ones. This is factually false. Actually, the amount of methane emitted by fermentation is the same whether it occurs in the cow or outside. Whether the feed is eaten by an herbivore or left to rot on its own, the methane generated is identical. Wetlands emit some 95 percent of all methane in the world; herbivores are insignificant enough to not even merit consideration. Anyone who really wants to stop methane needs to start draining wetlands. Quick, or we'll all perish. I assume he's figuring that since it takes longer to grow a beef on grass than on grain, the difference in time adds days to the emissions. But grain production carries a host of maladies far worse than methane. This is simply cherry-picking one negative out of many positives to smear the foundation of how soil builds: herbivore pruning, perennial disturbance-rest cycles, solar-grown biomass, and decomposition. This is like demonizing marriage because a good one will include some arguments.

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America’s best-known nuclear family gets mural at world’s best-known nuclear disaster

Street artists have started covering walls within the no-go zone of Chernobyl with advertising from the world's nuclear power companies -- and a portrait of America’s favorite family with a nuclear safety officer dad.

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Bike lanes make drivers less likely to be jerks, says study

A study of driving habits found that one in six motorists in Baltimore passed cyclists at an illegal distance, making them eligible to be shot to death under “stand your ground” laws, assuming we could somehow combine the laws of Maryland and Florida.

Read more: Biking, Cities

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Against all odds, Los Angeles is getting a bikeshare

Photo by Colin Gordon.

Los Angeles! Despite your reputation as the most car-dependent city west of, uh, anything, you're totally trying to get in on the green transportation revolution, and we love it!

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced over the weekend that the City of Cars will soon have a permanent bikeshare program. And if there were ever a city that should be bike-friendly, it's L.A. If people in Minneapolis can bike through the winter, the good people of Los Angeles can bike through their year-round climate of balmy beauty. (Seriously, you can do it, guys! We're rooting for you!)

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In Washington, prison inmates raise bees, frogs, and butterflies

When you think “prison,” you don’t usually think “idyllic bower of nature’s most rare and beautiful specimens.” But at the Washington State Department of Corrections, inmates can skip the license-plate making and spend their days cultivating endangered local animals, insects, and plants. Participants in the Sustainable Prisons Project raise Oregon spotted frogs, Taylor's checkerspot butterflies, native prairie plants, local birds, and bees. Its organizers are now looking to expand the project more widely.

The project, a partnership between the Department of Corrections and Evergreen State College, began in 2004, when inmates were recruited to help research moss farming -- they helped find an easily cultivated species that could serve as a replacement for moss unsustainably harvested from forests.

Read more: Animals

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Penguin lives the dream, bites Newt Gingrich

Photo by Kim Nowacki.

In the grand tradition of Jimmy Carter's swimming rabbit, Theodore Roosevelt's moose, and JFK's robot unicorn, Newt Gingrich has now had a run-in with wildlife: He was bitten on the finger by a penguin at the St. Louis zoo.

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Critical List: U.S. carbon emissions on the rise; Japan without nuclear power

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have started to rise again.

After May 5, Japan will be without nuclear power, at least until two idled reactors are started back up.

New forecasting technology means fewer people die in extreme weather.

Read more: Uncategorized