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Sarah Laskow's Posts

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Starbucks juice bar: Vegan nirvana or yuppie hellhole?

There are two ways to think about Starbucks' first juice bar, which opens Monday. Either this juice heralds the end of times, or it is a boon to vegans and vegetarians everywhere.

The basic background: Back in November, Starbucks bought Evolution Fresh, a company started by the guy behind Naked Juice. The coffee company is using that business to launch an entirely new chain. It will service fresh fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, wraps, salads, and soups. The first store opens Monday in Bellevue, Wash., which Reuters describes as "an upscale city just east of Seattle."

Now, for those who believe -- no, are certain -- that Starbucks ruined coffee forever, this is terrible news. People swear by their juice bars: in the East Village, where I live, you're either a Liquiteria fan or a Juicy Lucy fan. We have regular jazz-ballet dance rumbles. For those whose No. 1 priority is having fresh juices and vegan wraps available two to a corner … well, it’s probably still terrible news. Can a giant corporation really get a wheatgrass-spiked kale-apple-carrot-banana smoothie right? It is not unreasonable to fear that the result will be gross and probably full of sugar.

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Low doses of BPA are worse for you than high doses

The pesticide and plastics industry have a lot invested in the safety of chemicals like bisphenol A and atrazine. Such "endocrine-disrupting" chemicals mimic human hormones, and research has tied them to health problems like cancer and infertility. But these industries have always held up studies that look at exposure to huge doses of endocrine disruptors. In massive quantities, the industries point out, these chemicals don’t cause problems. Therefore, they must be safe.

But those huge doses may actually obscure the chemicals' effects, a new study argues. Endocrine-disrupting compounds "can have effects at low doses that are not predicted by effects at higher doses," the authors write. In other words, low levels of exposure to these chemicals -- like the levels that you'd get from, say, drinking water out of a BPA-laced plastic bottle -- can have worse effects than high levels of exposure.

Read more: Living

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Critical List: Chevron execs face ‘environmental crime’ charges; even small doses of BPA are dangerous

Everything about Frozen Planet is awesome, except Alec Baldwin's narration.

Chevron execs in Brazil must surrender their passports and face criminal charges for "environmental crimes" connected to oil spills off the country's coast.

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals like bisphenol A and the pesticide atrazine can have significant health effects even for people exposed to only small doses, according to a new study.

Mitt Romney wants Obama to fire Steven Chu, Lisa Jackson, and Ken Salazar because as heads of departments (Energy, EPA, and Interior) that have some responsibility for energy, they "are on a mission to drive up the price of gasoline and all energy."

Scientists have been monitoring Isle Royale National Park's grey wolves for decades, but with only one female left in a pack of nine, the wolves could die out.

Read more: Uncategorized

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San Francisco saves gas by making better parking spaces cost more

In San Francisco, a parking place costs more the more people want to use it. This might sound like common sense, but it's actually a radical experiment in keeping people from circling endlessly, looking for a spot and wasting gas.

Since 2010, the pricing for 7,000 metered spaces in the city has changed in real time based on demand. The idea is that raising prices in high-demand areas will send some customers elsewhere or make them park for shorter periods, leaving more free spots and decreasing circling-the-block-looking-for-a-freaking-spot time. The New York Times crunched the city's data from the program and found that -- hey! -- it's working:

Read more: Cities

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Critical List: A new Chevron oil spill in Brazil; Vladimir Putin didn’t shoot a tiger

Chevron has suspended work at a drilling site off the coast of Brazil after finding an oil leak near the site of November’s spill.

Vladimir Putin wants everyone to think he's all manly, but there's evidence that the "wild" tiger that he "tranquilized" was taken from a zoo to stage the stunt.

Chinese, South Korean, and European-flagged fishing ships are hauling in huge illegal catches off the coast of West Africa.

Read more: Uncategorized

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Gecko-inspired adhesive lets your TV cling to the wall like a lizard

With its Tom Cruise-like talent for scattering straight up walls, the gecko has become one of biomimicry's favored muses. Studying its feet, scientists have come up with a variety of gecko-inspired tapes, but now a team at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst has developed a stronger adhesive patch they're calling "Geckskin.”

A piece of the stuff about the size of an index card can hold up to 700 pounds of weight on a smooth wall. That's a 42-inch flatscreen TV or a mirror or that Dutch masterpiece you picked up on your last European vacation. And if you get the placement wrong, no problem -- you can peel this stuff off the wall and smack it back on without leaving a trace, supposedly.

Read more: Green Home

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Critical List: Gas prices could drop; Poland blocks E.U. carbon reforms

Gas prices could be heading down.

Poland, which depends on coal-fired power, keeps vetoing European Union plans to crack down on carbon emissions.

Climate scientists predicted the spread of mountain pine beetles, which due to warming temperatures are decimating tree populations in the American West.

Andrew Steer, who was working at the World Bank as special envoy for climate change, is the new president of the World Resources Institute.

Read more: Uncategorized

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Your best new argument against tar-sands mining: George W. Bush supports it

There are a lot of good arguments for opposing oil-sands development and the Keystone XL pipeline. But just today two more very excellent ones emerged. One involves science. The other involves George W. Bush.

If you want to get smart about this stuff, you can cite these facts, as reported by ClimateWire:

Scientists from the University of Alberta found that 10 operational oil sands mining projects would destroy enough peatlands to release 11.4 million to 47.3 million metric tons of stored carbon into the atmosphere. That release is the equivalent of seven years' worth of emissions from the oil sands mining region.

Read more: Oil

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Surrogate-mom housecat gives birth to endangered kitten

This kitten, born in 2011, is an endangered black-footed cat, one of the first black-footed kittens born to a surrogate mother, using frozen embryos and in vitro fertilization. Now he and his littermate have a sister, Crystal, with the same genetic parents, but a different surrogate mom -- a plain old housecat.

The African black-footed cat is one of the world's smallest felines, and the cats are tiny but fierce hunters -- they can kill hares that outweigh them. They can also range far from water, finding hydration from their prey and dew they lick off of grass. But none of this general feline badassery has kept the species from becoming severely endangered -- there are only 40 in captivity worldwide.

Read more: Animals

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Critical List: Oil sands carbon footprint revised upwards; new frog discovered in NYC

Oil sands have an even higher carbon footprint than previously thought: No one was counting carbon released when the drilling operations destroy peatlands.

In 2011, solar installers put in twice as many solar panels as they did in 2010.

The transportation bill now includes a natural gas amendment that fulfills energy magnate T. Boone Pickens' wildest dreams.

New York does have nature! It just takes a few scientists from Jersey to find it. A Rutgers doctoral candidate identified a new species of leopard frog that lives in and around New York City. He first heard its croak on a jaunt to Staten Island.

Read more: Uncategorized