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Sarah Laskow's Posts

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Spacecraft could be killing endangered antelope

Add these two factoids to your store of knowledge about Kazakhstan, which, admit it, consists mostly of "It's on the Risk board?" (it's not! You're thinking of Kamchatka) and “Borat is from there.” The central Asian country provides habitat for the endangered saiga antelope, which has a face like a fuzzy alien from Sesame Street. It also sometimes launches rockets into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the best-named launchpad in existence. These items are not as unrelated as you might think.

This past year, more than 1,000 saiga antelope have turned up mysteriously dead. And ecologists say that the Cosmodrome could be to blame. "Chemical elements left from space rockets that fly over this place" could be killing the antelope, one ecologist has said.

Read more: Animals, Pollution

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Critical List: Climate change could reduce plants’ power output; Texas power prices could triple

Power plants depend on river and lake water to keep their operations cool. Climate change is going to make that water warmer and keep plants from making as much power.

Power prices in Texas may triple. Utility commissioners worry that without higher prices, the state will consume too much energy and face summer blackouts.

Activists want Sophia Loren to stop the MSC Divina, a ship named in her honor, from entering the Venice lagoon, which the ship will likely royally screw up.

Read more: Uncategorized

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Beverage industry to NYC: Ignore the mayor. Soda’s totally cool

Well, that didn't take long. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced yesterday that NYC would be banning sugary drinks if they came in containers bigger than 16 ounces. And today, the American Beverage Association is pushing back with an ad that says, basically, "Do not believe that science over there! Believe this science that says soda is tooootally fine for you."

Click to embiggen.
Read more: Food

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Queen of England to eat invasive species pie

Photo by Sara Thompson.

Enemies of invasive species have been advocating for a diabolical solution to doing away with unwanted species: Eat them! And while most people are not down with eating sautéed iguana or lionfish ceviche, on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee, Queen Elizabeth II will be honored with a gift of lamprey pie -- a dish made from a parasitic eel that's invaded the Great Lakes.

Lampreys -- which look like eels, suck the blood of other fish, and have a single nostril on top of their heads -- used to thrive in the River Severn, near Gloucester. So naturally, it's the city's tradition to send the king or queen lamprey pies on special occasions. King Henry I liked the dish so much he supposedly died after overindulging in lamprey-eating in 1135.

Read more: Animals, Food, Scary Food

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Galaxy, right ahead! The Milky Way’s on course for a head-on collision

One day, this is what the night sky will look like. Yup, that's a galaxy (Andromeda, to be specific) headed straight for … our galaxy!

Andromeda's rushing towards us at the crazy fast speed of 250,000 miles per hour. Luckily, it is a galaxy far, far away, and so it will take 3.75 billion years to get close enough to present as it does in the above illustration, which NASA rigged up based on data from the Hubble telescope. 

Read more: Living

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Critical List: Carbon dioxide hits 400 ppm in the Arctic; bedbugs don’t like boozy blood

Carbon dioxide levels in the Arctic have reached 400 parts per million (ppm). Once upon a time, they were 275 ppm. 350 ppm is considered a decent level to aim for these days.

Peanut butter and deli meats have traces of flame retardant in them.

Fishing fleets don't care what regulators say -- they'll fish where they want.

Last year's cold summer meant that there were a fifth fewer butterflies around.

California's going to require "solar ready roofs" on new buildings.

Read more: Uncategorized

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Report: Corporations are big fat hypocrites about climate change

Corporations are officially people now, and like people, sometimes corporations will loudly say that they believe one thing while their actions reveal another preference entirely. Like a lady who says she wants to settle down but dates only dudes who are apt to move to Hawaii at a moment's notice, American companies having been saying they’re concerned about climate change at the same time that they have been fooling around with trade organizations, think tanks, and lobbying groups that have been working to undermine climate action.

In a new report, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) calls companies out on this behavior. Being an organization staffed by scientists with “scientists” in the name, UCS approached this in a rigorous manner: Its team identified 28 publicly traded companies that had intervened in the climate debate in some way, and looked at their lobbying, campaign donations, advocacy work, SEC filings, earning calls, funding of think tanks, and press materials. You know, basically every shred of evidence the companies had left behind.

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Critical List: Obama EPA goes easier on oil producers than Bush EPA; NYC could ban large sodas

The Bush EPA was tougher on oil and gas producers than the Obama EPA -- enforcement actions are at their lowest level in years.

New York City could ban the sale of large sodas.

Properties close to national wildlife refuges have greater value.

Read more: Uncategorized

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IKEA subsidiary accused of cutting down centuries-old trees

Shoppers might pay next to nothing for those cheapy cheap tables and chairs and bookshelves at IKEA, but the planet pays a much higher price, Environmental Leader reports. According to a forest conservation nonprofit, an IKEA subsidiary is clear-cutting forests that are hundreds of years old.

[The Global Forest Coalition] -- an alliance of NGOs from more than 40 countries -- alleges that Ikea’s wholly owned logging subsidiary Swedwood has been clear-cutting forests in high biodiversity value areas and logging very old trees in parts of the Russian Karelia region.

Read more: Uncategorized

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Ithaca mayor turns his personal parking space into a mini-park

After Svante Myrick, 25, became the youngest-ever mayor of Ithaca, N.Y., he gave up his car to join the estimated 15 percent of his city's residents who walk to work. As mayor, however, Myrick has a prime downtown parking spot reserved for his exclusive use. So instead of letting it stand empty, last week he began to, as he put it, “turn the Mayor's parking space into a park space.”