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Sarah Laskow's Posts

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These hairy crazy ants are invading America and they do not screw around

Start playing the video above, and after you're suitably grossed out by the close-ups, skip to about 0:45. These are insects called hairy crazy ants -- that is what they’re really called -- and they are terrifying. How do they move that fast? These guys are invading the American South. They are called hairy, because their bellies are hairy. They are called crazy, because they move crazy fast, and also they are crazy with nothing to lose. And they're hard to kill: if one dies, the others swarm the site to attack the danger. This one guy in Texas tried …

Read more: Animals

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Now we have two giant holes in the ozone layer

I hear New Zealand is beautiful, but I'm never going there, because the ozone is thin and I'll die of skin cancer. I hear Norway is beautiful, too, but it looks like I can't go there either, because now there's an unprecedentedly big ozone hole over the Arctic. Winter often thins the ozone layer over the Arctic, but this year, for the first time, scientists are saying the hole is comparable to the one of over Antarctica. It's twice as bad as the two biggest holes scientists had previously observed over the Arctic, and in some sections, 80 percent of …

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Critical List: Perry not afraid to sound like an idiot; Koch Industries trading with Iran

"I'm not afraid to say I'm a skeptic about [climate change]." -- Rick Perry, ladies and gentlemen. So fearless. A Bloomberg investigation found that Koch Industries has paid bribes to obtain contracts and sold Iran petrochemical equipment, in violation of the U.S. trade ban. Trees are nice. Probably not a great idea to destroy them all. If you have an electric toothbrush, extra-large fridge, laptop, iPad, iPhone, multiple flat screen TVs, a flat screen monitor, and god knows what else -- you're killing us here! China wanted its high-speed rail system to represent the country's superior technology, but it’s actually …

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Canada probably didn’t NEED that ice sheet, right?

If you thought you were melting over the summer, just be glad you're not an ice sheet that's been chilling out since before Europeans settled in Canada. Over the summer, two huge Canadian ice shelves in the Arctic shrunk down precipitously, report scientists from the University of Ottawa and Carleton University. One sheet had already split into two sections and just kept getting smaller; the other broke in half this year. Icebergs are breaking away and "pose a risk to offshore oil facilities and potentially to shipping lanes," reports the Associated Press. "Since the end of July, pieces equaling one …

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Critical List: MIT recreates photosynthesis; City of Austin goes 100 percent renewable

MIT created an "artificial leaf" that recreates photosynthesis. In Germany, they've got so much wind-generated electricity, they’re giving it away. Driving 75 mph isn't fuel efficient, ahem, Maine. Austin's going to be the largest local government using only renewable energy to power its municipal buildings. Little things are turning people against the Keystone XL pipeline, even people you might not expect to take an activist stand. This Montana rancher just wants to keep his trees, so his ranch land won't erode away. Green and native groups are challenging Shell's Alaska drilling efforts in court. A new online game is sort …

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Company that created Alaskan ‘dead zone’ has to pay to clean it up

Dumping buckets of fish guts into the ocean turns out not to be so good for the ecosystems involved. Basically, the more dead fish you put in the water, the fewer live fish can survive there. Off the coast of Alaska, one seafood processor has created "a massive wasteland of fish guts about 50 acres or more … a dead zone." The processor, Seattle-based Trident, now has to pay $30 to 40 million to clean up its mess (plus, stop dumping so many damn fish innards into the sea). That’s the result of a settlement with the EPA, which apparently …

Read more: Animals, Food

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Do Australian lorikeets have a drinking problem or a mysterious disease problem?

Red-collared lorikeets -- a type of parrot -- show up every year in Australia acting like they've been hitting the fermented fruit juice a little too hard. Locals report symptoms like "falling over" and "difficulty flying" and "running into things" and "act[ing] friendlier than normal," which will be familiar to anyone who’s ever gone to college. (Don’t ask about “difficulty flying.” That was a bad night.) Ok, but less funny -- the "drunken" lorikeets also have respiratory problems and goop coming out of their noses and eyes. In the past decade, more and more birds have shown up with the …

Read more: Animals

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Critical List: EPA’s greenhouse report comes in for criticism; motorcycles are gross

The EPA and its inspector general disagree over what qualifies as a "scientific assessment." The EPA has concluded that greenhouse gases are dangerous; the IG now says that the assessment didn’t go through sufficient peer review. This is actually about the review of the relevant “technical support document,” not about the scientific findings, but tell that to Republicans. The DOE gave a $737 million loan guarantee to a solar-tower project in Nevada, which had better the hell not fail now. Motorcycles are more fuel efficient, but their tailpipe emissions contain nasty stuff. Do China's solar subsidies violate global trade rules? …

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Beauty and the Beastly BPA-Soaked Soup

Disney princess-mania can strike 3 to 5-year-old children at any time. That’s bad enough for kids (and mostly their parents), but now these bedazzled damsels are harming all children in a whole new way -- by enticing them to ingest high levels of BPA. Campbell's has been using Disney princesses and other Disney characters to sell kid-targeted food. Cartoon labels and "cool shapes" -- i.e. noodles that are supposedly, though unidentifiably, made to look like kids’ favorite characters -- help entice "healthy kids" into eating chicken in salty chicken broth. And of all the soups tested for BPA in a …

Read more: Food, Scary Food

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Local dressing is the new local eating

The wool and cotton for all of the clothes in Rebecca Burgess' closet was grown within 150 miles of her home in the Bay Area. The wool was spun there, too; the dyes were grown there; the sweaters were knitted there. In fact, the clothes were entirely locally sourced from what Burgess calls her local "fibershed" — the network of farmers, millers, weavers, designers, dyers, knitters, and seamstresses that it takes to make clothes.   Check out the clothes in the video above. Burgess doesn't think that everyone needs to source their entire closet locally but wants others to think …