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Jess Zimmerman's Posts

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Haley Barbour pins the BP oil spill on a sad bird

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour thinks the disastrous economic effects of the Gulf oil spill were the fault of BP, where “BP” stands for “brown pelican”: So people saw on TV the same brown pelican coated with looked like 3 inches of oil, I mean, looked like a chocolate pelican. And they showed it every hour, every day, 24 hours a day for weeks and weeks and weeks. And the news media, particularly 24-hour cable TV, gave citizens the impression the whole Gulf Coast was coated in oil. People deduced from that that it was unsafe, unpleasant, don’t want to go …

Read more: Animals, Pollution

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Let’s point and laugh at the United States’ weeny little pollution taxes

Awwwwww, look at the teeny little bar graph representing U.S. pollution taxes! I bet everybody tells the U.S. it's "average," but it's clearly not. Don't worry, America; it's not how big it is, it's what you do with it! And we ... use it to fund wars, I guess? 

Read more: Pollution

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Watch a ridiculously adorable kid encourage the world to ride a bike

This kid just learned to ride a bike, and it made him feel happy of himself! You can do it too! He knows you can believe in yourself!

Read more: Biking, Cities, Family, Living

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MyConservationPark is a Facebook game that’s actually good for something

MyConservationPark is a Farmville-style Facebook game that lets you administer a nature preserve, juggling animals, plants, structures, and people to protect the habitat of endangered wildlife. But this isn't just a whole new way to annoy your Facebook friends with environmentalism; it also makes a difference in the real world. Fifteen percent of any in-game purchase goes directly to conservation groups. Sure, maybe you shouldn't be spending your money on Facebook games, but who are we to judge? You have to get through your work day like everybody else, so you might as well be helping save gorillas or whatever …

Read more: Animals

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Introducing your new food pyramid

Here's the USDA's new food guidelines, in an appropriate graphical form: the plate chart. (A pie chart would have too much refined sugar.) It lacks the mystical and ancient appeal of the food pyramid, but is perhaps more relevant to your daily food-eating life. (But is it kosher or something? Why is the dairy on a separate dish?) [Update: It's a glass of milk! I JUST got that.] The take-home messages are: Avoid oversized portions. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Make at least half your grains whole grains. Switch to fat-free or 1 percent milk. Go for lower-sodium …

Read more: Food

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The frogfish is the world’s most efficient invasivore

It's still hot to be an invasivore, chowing down on invasive species to help balance the ecosystem. Cleveland even had a food festival showcasing ways to prepare the delicious-sounding invasive plant garlic mustard. (This is going out on a limb, but ... maybe use it as a condiment?) But the lionfish is a particularly pesky (and potentially tasty) species, with its own "eat this fish to local extinction, please" campaign from NOAA. Well, this frogfish clearly read our piece about a "menu for invasivores," which included lionfish ceviche. And he decided to skip the slicing and marinating and just inhale …

Read more: Animals, Food

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How bicycles are fighting illiteracy and empowering women in India

The Indian state of Bihar has only a 33 percent literacy rate for women -- the lowest in the country. But the state government, headed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, is turning education for girls around -- with bicycles. In 2007 Kumar instituted a plan to give schoolgirls money to buy bicycles once they successfully complete Class 8 (eighth grade). With girls now able to easily get themselves to school, Bihar swelled its Class 9 enrollment by 170,000 in the program's first year. The state gave out 871,000 bikes in its first three years, and dropouts among girls have dropped …

Read more: Biking, Cities

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Why Republicans are fighting Obama’s commerce pick

President Obama nominated long-time successful energy executive John Bryson to be secretary of commerce yesterday, in a move representative Darrell Issa calls "deeply out of touch with our current energy challenge." Wait, what? See, before Bryson was the president of the California Public Utilities Commission, or the CEO of Edison International, or the director of Boeing, or a trustee at CalTech, or the chairman of the board of BrightSource Energy (which built Google's solar farms), he co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council. A hippie! What do hippies know about our current energy challenge?? Issa's not the only one throwing shade. …

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Chris Christie takes a helicopter to a baseball game

I was going to put a joke in the headline, but is it really necessary? I mean, here are the facts without jokes: Chris Christie, the transit-killing, mall-building, climate-initiative-withdrawing governor of New Jersey, hopped on a state helicopter to go to his kid's baseball game -- and once he alit, a private car took him the 100 yards from the helicopter's landing site to the bleachers. See, now, didn't you laugh? Sure, it was a bitter, hollow laugh, but still. Apparently Christie's vision of the future is one in which we don't need public transportation because we all flit around …

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Roads cause traffic

Yeah, it actually does need to be said. Folks with an investment in expanding highway infrastructure like to act as though the only way to relieve congestion is to build more roads for those cars to ride on. But a soon-to-be-published study shows that traffic expands to fill the space allotted. More roads don't mean more room -- they mean more cars. There are a few reasons for this, but mainly it's that people drive more when it's easier. It's not that we need to have a certain number of cars on the road, and that number just happens to …