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Eden Foods pulls a Hobby Lobby

This organic food company is refusing to pay for employees’ birth control

Eden Food cans

Just because a company is organic doesn't mean it's progressive. Exhibit A: Eden Foods.

Like Hobby Lobby, Eden Foods sued the Obama administration to try to get out of providing contraceptive coverage for its employees. Eden Foods is a Michigan-based business that bills itself as "the oldest natural and organic food company in North America." It is solely owned by Michael Potter, a Catholic who refers to birth control pills as "lifestyle drugs" and likes to whine about "unconstitutional government overreach." (More crazy quotes from him below.)

In Eden Foods Inc. v. Kathleen Sebelius, filed in federal court in March of 2013, the company claimed its religious freedom was being violated by the Affordable Care Act's mandate that employee health insurance cover birth control. The suit argued that "contraception or abortifacients ... almost always involve immoral and unnatural practices.” In October, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided against Eden Foods, ruling that a for-profit company cannot exercise religion.

But then, on June 30, the Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that family-owned, "closely held" companies can use religion as an excuse to flout the birth control mandate. Eden Foods is one of a few dozen "closely held" for-profit companies that have filed suit over the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate. On July 1, the Supreme Court ordered the 6th Circuit Court to reconsider its decision against Eden Foods and another plaintiff with a similar case.

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This might get loud

Is this pipeline company ready for some whale hazing?

orcas in the ocean
Pavel Lunkin

The pipeline situation in Canada has been contentious for a while. But now, it's getting positively weird. In the latest twist, the energy giant Kinder Morgan is proposing a novel wildlife protection scheme. If a pipeline expansion that boosts oil exports out of Vancouver leads to a massive new spill, Kinder Morgan says it knows just what to do: It will spook the whales.

OK, I know that's a lot to take in, so let's back up a bit.

Canada, pipeline-wise, is starting to look a lot like the U.S. It has become a place where putting in a new pipeline is so controversial that the most expedient thing is to take an old one and make it bigger. For example: one new pipeline, the Northern Gateway, is facing a cavalcade of legal challenges and protests.

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The rat came back

Retracted Roundup-fed rat research republished

lab-rat
lculig

A paper based on an experiment led by the scientist Gilles-Eric Séralini -- which became a lightning rod in the genetic engineering controversy and was eventually retracted -- has been republished in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe.

The paper suggests an association between tumor growth in rats and the consumption of Roundup-resistant corn, or Roundup itself. Its publication unleashed a flood of photos showing horrifically tumorous rats.

Back in December, I wrote that the retraction was unwarranted. Sure the study's sample sizes were far too small to show anything definitive, but many other experiments -- including some suggesting the safety of genetically engineered foods -- have used the same methods. Retracting this paper without applying the same level of scrutiny to those other papers was clearly a double standard.

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Latest sign that the end is nigh: You can now get a “ride share” in a helicopter

uber-ocalypse

You know how it is -- there you are, standing on the roof of the American embassy during the fall of Saigon and all of the helicopters have their vacancy lights turned off. It’s the worst!

Now, thanks to the ride-share company Uber and its whirly-bird partner, Blade, well, you’d still be screwed. But if you want to get from Manhattan to the Hamptons this Thursday for a little surfing, they’ve got you covered.

Uber, a company that gets its name from a word banned from the German national anthem after World War II, is teaming up for one day with Blade, a company that offers Uber-like services for those in desperate need of a helicopter. Just make sure you get the pilot to crank Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” as you come in low over P-Diddy’s place.

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With one more nail in its coffin, is Keystone XL history?

Cowboy Indian Alliance
Matt Sloan/Bold Nebraska

This past weekend, on June 29, TransCanada's permit from the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission to build the Keystone XL pipeline quietly expired.

Well, sort of quietly. The Cowboy & Indian Alliance, which marched on Washington in opposition to Keystone XL earlier this year, held a celebratory buffalo roast at the Rosebud Sioux Spirit Camp and raised a flag with an image of a black snake cut into three parts.

The flag referenced an old prophecy about a black snake that would threaten the community's land and water. Earlier interpretations had held that the snake was the railroad, and then the highway system. But when the plans for Keystone XL emerged, it seemed clear that, since both black snakes and Keystone XL traveled underground, this was definitely the black snake -- or at the very least another one.

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Space Oddity

Hopefully NASA won’t screw up its CO2-measuring satellite this time

OCOsatellite
JPL/NASA

The last time NASA tried to launch a satellite to measure carbon dioxide levels from space, within minutes the $273 million project plopped into the Southern Ocean (oops). Tomorrow they’re giving it another go. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2 will blast off at 2:56 a.m. PDT from the Vadenburg Air Force Base in California. This time, it’ll hopefully make it to 438 miles above the planet, where it will be in a prime position to obsessively watch Earth breathe.

OCOsat
JPL/NASA

Which sounds stalker-esque, but don't get too creeped out. OCO’s main goal is to figure out where, exactly, atmospheric CO2 currently comes from -- and, more mysteriously, where it ends up. While fossil fuel emissions have tripled since the 1960s, levels of atmospheric CO2 have risen by less than a quarter (but unfortunately that's still enough to cause big global change). That’s because somehow our oceans and plants have, on average, been able to keep pace with absorbing half of the total atmospheric CO2. But scientists still don't know a lot about the dynamics of how this is happening, which leaves them wondering: How long can we expect these carbon sinks to keep sucking the stuff down?

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hacking the climate

B.C. put a price on carbon. What happened next will surprise you

BC mountains
Marcia and Mike Nelso Pedde

When I pull up to the pumps in my small hometown on the coast of British Columbia, Canada, I pay more for a tank of gas than in California, my new home. Why? Because regardless of where gas prices hover at the moment, the B.C. government tops off every gallon with a 25-cent tax.

Complaining about gas prices is almost as ubiquitous as small talk about the weather, so it seems counterintuitive for politicians to hike costs up even further. Yet somehow the province’s Liberal party managed not only to do just that, but also to win an election centered on the issue in 2009. They did it by designing the tax in a way that benefits the province's robust middle class.

hacking-climate-logo
Hallie Bateman

The B.C. carbon tax is built on a simple tenet of human behavior: When the price of something goes up, people will consume less of it. It actually applies to not just gasoline, but to all sources of atmospheric carbon, including natural gas and propane, and is based on how much carbon they emit. For example, since natural gas burns cleaner than gasoline, it is taxed at a lower rate. This ensures emissions are priced in proportion to their impact on the climate.

As a result, British Columbia’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions are now nearly 20 percent below the rest of Canada's. This put the province “within spitting distance” of its goal to reduce emissions 6 percent below 2007 levels by 2012 a year ahead of schedule, says Mary Polak, B.C.’s minister of the environment.

Sustainable Prosperity, a research and policy institute that measured the tax’s impacts, reported that the policy reduced fuel consumption seven times more than if the price of gas had naturally increased by the same amount due to market fluctuations. The tax drove consumption down not just by pushing gas prices up, but also by raising awareness about why we need to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

All that happened in the span of just five years.

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Upcycling finally gets its own reality TV show

According to the latest census, there are roughly three times as many reality TV shows as there are people, so pretty much every job you could possibly imagine has a show. There are shows about the high stakes of baking; programs devoted to the thrilling world of long-haul trucking (which somehow has not had a single episode about meth); series on goldfish caretaking; heck, every other gun shop in America has a show (which is a lot of gun shops). Toddlers in tiaras have their own show as do toddlers who used to wear tiaras. But the reality TV field has been sorely lacking on the green front ... until now.

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First Nations, first dibs, says Canada’s Supreme Court

indigenous protest
Jennifer Castro

With just one court ruling, the situation of pipelines in Canada has changed in a big way.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on a 14-year-old battle over logging rights on Tsilhqot’in Nation territory in British Columbia. Its decision says that any First Nation land that was never formally ceded to the Canadian government cannot be developed without consent of those First Nations that have a claim to it.

To say that this has huge implications for the Canadian oil industry is an understatement. The only thing that stands between Alberta, the province that is the hub of the country's oil boom, and the Pacific Ocean, which connects Canada to the lucrative oil markets of Asia, is unceded First Nations territory. The Northern Gateway pipeline, which Prime Minister Stephen Harper approved earlier this week, runs along a route that First Nations have already begun blockading, a full 18 months before the pipeline is expected to begin construction.

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Love train

This floating magnetic pod is the public transit of the future (we hope)

sky-train.jpg
Skytran

Usually when a defense contractor comes up with a wiz-bang gizmo, it’s the kind of thing that gives us nightmares, not think, “Man, I hope they bring that to my town!” But defense giant Israel Aerospace Industries is teaming up with California-based SkyTran to build a maglev system for its corporate campus in Tel Aviv.

The system uses small, two-person pods hanging from elevated tracks. You can order up a pod from your cellphone. Wired’s Alexander George has more: