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An Icelandic brewer is making beer out of whales, and it’s grosser than you even imagine

SONY DSC
Arjen Toet

An Icelandic brewing company named Steðji and a whaling company named Hvalur have teamed up to make whale-flavored beer. Why would you want whale-flavored beer? Well, novelty, I guess? And, if you believe the brewery, because it's low in fat and because you want to be a "true Viking." (True Vikings watch their figures!)

A group called Whale and Dolphin Conservation thinks, not surprisingly, that this sounds pretty lousy; it thinks Hvalur is just turning to increasingly absurd products in order to drum up demand for whale meat, which has been getting less popular lately.

We'll note that the whale product used is "whale meal," which is sort of like the pink slime of whale meat:

Read more: Food, Living

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Washington coal export project dumped by Goldman Sachs

coal ship
Shutterstock

Goldman Sachs is looking a tad less evil. It has dumped its holdings in a shaky project that would build the Gateway Pacific Terminal near Bellingham, Wash., intended to be the West Coast's biggest coal export terminal.

It's not that the banking giant discovered a soul. Rather, it's realizing that coal projects in the U.S. are a dumb gamble. Last year, the group's commodity research team warned of "a sharp deceleration in seaborne demand" for coal in a paper titled "The window for thermal coal investment is closing."

Here's Oregon Public Broadcasting with the latest:

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Food industry’s secret plan for a GMO (non)-labeling law

GMO label sign
CT Senate Democrats

The captains of the food industry have decided it's time for a federal GMO-labeling law. Specifically, they're aiming for a labeling law that doesn't actually require labeling at all -- but does pre-empt all of the more stringent labeling laws now making their way through state legislatures. In other words, they want a voluntary-labeling law that stops states from enacting anything else. (Yes, food makers can already voluntarily label their products as non-GM.)

This story comes from Politico, where Jenny Hopkinson and Helena Bottemiller Evich got their hands on a leaked description of the proposed law.

This isn't exactly a surprise -- it's precisely what the Grocery Manufacturing Association had planned to do. And there's no telling yet whether politicians have an appetite for this law.

Read more: Food

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Yet another oil train explodes, this time in New Brunswick, Canada

Train tracks
Zach Bonnell

Looking for a way to warm yourself through this bitter North American cold snap? Just huddle around the nearest train tracks in hopes that one of the countless oil-hauling trains traversing the continent will pass by and combust.

It hadn't even been two weeks since a derailed train laden with crude exploded in North Dakota when a similar accident occurred last night near the village of Plaster Rock in New Brunswick, Canada, just beyond the Maine border.

Of the 15 rear cars that jumped the tracks, four were carrying crude oil and four were carrying propane. Derailed cars burned through the night, and emergency responders were unwilling to get close enough to figure out which of the carriages were ablaze. About 45 nearby homes were evacuated after the accident. Fortunately, no injuries have been reported.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Jon Stewart’s balls get angry when you say cold weather disproves climate change

Jon Stewart, bless him, tried to establish a temporary religion- and politics-free zone on The Daily Show by talking about the most innocuous of subjects: the weather. (“This morning, I had to put my hand on a witch’s teat to keep it warm! The witch’s teat was warmer, which I think is unusual,” he exclaimed.)

But goshdangit, even the subzero temperatures in many parts of the country are being politicized, with right-wingers claiming the weather clearly disproves climate change. (Really? The only thing -20 degree weather proves is that you need a REALLY good jacket.) Stewart takes on the deniers in characteristic droll form:

The Daily Show
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Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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This brilliant tie has a subway map printed on the inside

Neckwear with a subway map discreetly included inside? Why hasn’t anyone thought of that before? GENIUS. No more squinting up at the subway map like a n00b. You can thank ARA, the company that makes these:

subway-map-tie
ARA
Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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This land is ours: African Americans should claim their place in the great outdoors

hiking while black
Shutterstock

Over the weekend, The New York Times published a touching essay from NYU journalism professor and writer Farai Chideya, “Traveling While Black,” which explores the different ways African Americans are received overseas. Chideya wrote that, compared to her experience here in the U.S., in most nations, she isn't objectified nor looked upon with skepticism because of her race and gender.

I encourage all to read it, but I want to highlight one passage near the end of the article, where she talks about the relationship between African Americans and the great outdoors -- a relationship often perceived as fraught. Writes Chideya:

[B]loggers are also pushing black Americans to get out and see our country in all its natural glory. Barry and Cindy Rock, originally from Boston and now living in Georgia, run the site Camping in Color (campingincolor.blogspot.com), which addresses the specific fears about what it’s like to camp -- a fear that can encompass both nature and other campers. “I think most folks need to just relax a little bit because everywhere you go in this country you’ll come across somebody who doesn’t like you,” Mr. Rock said. “They may give you a dirty look, but that’s not something that’s going to stop us from enjoying our country.”

I love what Rock is saying here, and I think the tension he refers to deserves further unpacking. African Americans’ reputation for being biophobic is both deserved and undeserved -- but mostly the latter.

Read more: Cities, Living

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These movies changed your political views, according to science

people watching movie
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Rush Limbaugh was right all along.

Sort of.

According to a study recently published in Social Science Quarterly, Hollywood is making you more liberal. The study, titled "Moving Pictures? Experimental Evidence of Cinematic Influence on Political Attitudes," was coauthored by Todd Adkins and Jeremiah Castle of the University of Notre Dame. It found that viewers who watched a movie with a message on healthcare (either Francis Ford Coppola's fairly polemical The Rainmaker or James L. Brooks' more subtle As Good As It Gets) generally saw their support for the Affordable Care Act, or similar policies, increase.

"We find significant evidence that viewers of both As Good As it Gets and The Rainmaker became more liberal on healthcare-related policies as a result of watching the movies, with this change persisting two weeks after viewing the films," the authors wrote. "Such evidence strongly supports our contention that popular films possess the capability to change attitudes on political issues. We believe the potential for popular films to generate lasting attitudinal change presents an important area for future research."

Read more: Living, Politics

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Why Canada sucks on climate change

canada-fireworks-writing-name-cropped
Shutterstock

If you were old enough to vote in 2004, then you probably remember the refrain “I’m moving to Canada!” It was every disenchanted liberal’s threat after George W. Bush’s reelection. Wags even made a “United States of Canada” map, attaching the Democratic states of the coasts and Upper Midwest to their friendly northern neighbor.

The sentiment was understandable. American liberals have longingly observed for decades that most industrialized nations are consistently ahead of the U.S. in adopting their preferred policies: universal health coverage, guaranteed paid sick leave, public child-care services, gun control, mass transit, and a price on pollution.

Saying we should be more like Europe may sound faintly un-American to some, and can prompt objections that our culture is nothing like that of, say, France or Sweden. But saying we should be more like Canada? Those affable, English-speaking folks right across the border? Like us, they are a nation of immigrants, a former British colony, and when they say “football” they don’t mean soccer.

And so Canada has become the American liberal’s lodestar. “Why can’t we have a rational policy, more like Canada’s?” goes the lament, which can be applied to almost any issue. But there is one glaring, and growing, exception: energy and climate change.

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Court battle could force New Jersey to resume carbon trading

Chris Christie
L.E.MORMILE / Shutterstock
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie doesn't want carbon trading in his state, but he might not have a choice.

Last year was a good one for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a carbon-trading program in nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. And on Wednesday, environmentalists will push forward with a bid to make 2014 an even better year -- by dragging New Jersey back into the program.

RGGI, the first mandatory carbon-trading program in the U.S., caps the amount of CO2 that can be released by power plants and allows those facilities to buy and exchange the rights to release the pollution. RGGI revenue, which could hit $2 billion by 2020, is poured back into clean energy programs -- mostly into renewable energy and energy efficiency.

New Jersey was a participant in RGGI when it launched, but in 2011 Gov. Chris Christie (R) directed his administration to withdraw the state from the program -- and it did so without calling for any kind of public comment or debate. Christie and other conservatives at the time lamented the costs to electricity ratepayers and said RGGI wasn't performing as expected. "This program is not effective in reducing greenhouse gases and is unlikely to be in the future," Christie said. "It’s a failure." The majority of state lawmakers today want New Jersey to rejoin RGGI, but they don't have enough votes to overcome an inevitable Christie veto.

So attorneys with the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environment New Jersey are rolling up their lawyerly sleeves and heading into an appellate court on Wednesday to battle it out against the state's legal team. Here is NRDC's Dale Bryk with an explanation of the groups' lawsuit: