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Domesticated honeybees are giving bumblebees their dirty diseases


What happens when many, many bees visit the same flower? Well, much like with humans, if one of the bees has a disease, and the flower doesn’t use protection, it can spread the disease to other bees that visit it. According to a new study, which looked at 750 bees in 26 places in England, this is happening around the country -- domesticated honeybees are bringing "deadly diseases" with them to the flowers and wild bumblebees are catching them.

There's a possibility it might not be the honeybees’ fault. But scientists suspect it is, because honeybees are more disease-ridden. The Associated Press reports:

Study co-author Matthias Furst of the University of London said the team's research does not definitively prove the diseases are passed from honeybees to bumblebees, rather than the other way round. But the evidence points in that direction because virus levels and infection rates are higher in the honeybees, he said.

Read more: Living


This Utah lawmaker might be the most delusional climate skeptic ever


Utah Rep. Jerry Anderson (R) wants his state to stop regulating carbon dioxide, because it’s just a harmless gas occurring naturally in the atmosphere. After all, radon, cyanide, and xenon are natural too, and they’re totally fine! Er, poisonous!

Anderson’s bill, HB 229, would stop gases like nitrogen and oxygen from being considered “air contaminants” and prevent his state from regulating carbon dioxide unless it hits 500 parts per million (ppm). Slightly more credible sources, like former University of Utah engineering professor Joe Andrade, say that 500 ppm is much too high; that level of carbon dioxide would “acidify the oceans to a devastating degree.” (Guess who we side with?)

See how many flimsy climate skeptic arguments you can count in Anderson’s misguided ramblings:

I’ve been around long enough to know that we cycle between possible ice ages coming on or ‘the ice caps are gonna melt and we’re all gonna drown.’ A couple of weeks ago we had some really cold weather here. And I’m glad that we have some global warming so it didn’t get any colder than that.

Read more: Climate & Energy


New Hot Pockets flavor: Diseased animal meat!


Hot Pockets -- the impressively flavorless doughy pouch encircling questionable meat and cheese -- just got grosser. One of its suppliers, Rancho Feeding Corporation, recalled almost 9 million pounds of beef last week because it was “diseased and unsound.” So far, only Hot Pockets’ Philly Steak & Cheese flavor has been recalled, but there’s no WAY we’ll stuff them in our pants to keep warm now!

Here are the three main products to avoid:

  • Hot Pocket Philly Steak & Cheese, 9 oz., UPC4369507107
  • Hot Pocket Croissant Crust Philly Steak & Cheese, 9 oz., UPC 4369505634
  • Hot Pocket Philly Steak & Cheese, 54 oz., UPC 4369507520
Read more: Food


Ask Umbra: Can I feed feral pigs to Fido? Should I?


Send your question to Umbra!

Q. Wild/feral pigs/boars: I see their overpopulation is a problem in Texas, New York, Missouri, California, and Florida, to name a few. Are these the same animals in my chi-chi dog food featuring "Wild Boar"? Are there other companies taking advantage of this invasive species to make dog food that I can support?

Michele C.
Keene, NH

A. Dearest Michele,

I love the twofer problem-solving you display in your note. Problem: Wild hogs are overrunning sensitive ecosystems all over the country. Problem: Our dogs are hungry. It’s win-win!

The solution sounds perfect, but can we really join the battle against invasive species by ... feeding them to our pets?

From what I can tell, the answer is a qualified yes. I’m not sure which brand of puppy chow you’re scooping, Michele, but I could only find a few companies advertising wild boar as a main ingredient. One of them, Taste of the Wild, reports that the boar in Fido’s bowl was indeed a wild-caught, invasive hog from a Texas supplier. A spokesperson at the other one, Natural Balance, also confirmed their boar is wild-caught in the U.S. (There’s also a Canadian manufacturer that offers boar dog treats, but those come from farmed hogs.)

Read more: Food, Living


Can farmed fish go vegetarian?


The worldwide aquaculture industry is growing faster than a genetically engineered salmon. By 2030, the World Bank forecasts that 62 percent of the fish eaten the world over will have come from a fish farm -- up from about half today.

Aquaculture is an alternative to commercial fishing. But all those farmed fish need to eat, and most of them eat smaller fish harvested from oceans. Which kind of defeats the whole point of aquaculture.

Forage fish like anchovies and sardines are being hauled out of the seas, mixed with soy and other ingredients, turned into pellets, and used as fish feed.

To get away from this practice, which harms oceanic food webs, scientists are trying to figure out how to rear fish on vegetarian diets. QUEST/KQED reports:


These are dark days for the Arctic — literally

Walruses in the Arctic
Sarah Sonsthagen / U.S. Geological Survey

Things are getting gloomy up north, where the Arctic region is losing its albedo.

No, not libido -- this isn't a problem that can be fixed with ice-blue pills and adventurous nature videos. Albedo. It's a scientific term that refers to the amount of light that the surface of the planet reflects back into space. Reflecting light away from the Earth helps keep things cool, so the loss of Arctic albedo is a major problem.

And new research has concluded that the problem is an even greater one than scientists had anticipated.

Read more: Climate & Energy


This amazing washing machine uses virtually no water


Nearly a quarter of the water your household uses goes into your washing machine, and the average family of four will use 12,000 gallons of water a year on laundry. What if there were a way to de-stankify your clothes without draining the ocean?

Now there is, thanks to British company Xeros, which has made what it says is the first true leap forward for washing machines in 60 years. Using only a cup of water -- about 90 percent less than normal washers -- Xeros’ washing machine tumbles clothes with a million little plastic beads that absorb dirt when humidity is present. The recyclable polymer beads are good for about 500 washes. (After that, please be careful not to dump them in the Great Lakes.)

“If all UK households converted to the technology, it would save around seven million tonnes of water per week,” writes the Daily Mail -- approximately 1.8 billion gallons, or almost three Olympic-sized swimming pools. Not only that, but Xeros’ washer uses half the electricity of standard washing machines and much less detergent. Watch:

Read more: Living


Steyer may spend $100 million to push climate cause in midterms, but polluters will spend more

Tom Steyer and David Koch
Fortune Live Media / Reuters
A championship matchup: On the left, Tom Steyer. On the right, David Koch.

After years of being outgunned by polluters and their allies, environmentalists have been celebrating the arrival of a savior: Tom Steyer, a Bay Area hedge-fund billionaire. Last year, he spent $11 million to help Democrat Terry McAuliffe get elected as Virginia governor, and millions more on anti-Keystone ads and the campaign to elect Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey to the Senate. And on Tuesday, The New York Times’ Nicholas Confessore reported, “He is rallying other deep-pocketed donors, seeking to build a war chest that would make his political organization, NextGen Climate Action, among the largest outside groups in the country, similar in scale to the conservative political network overseen by Charles and David Koch.”

The Koch brothers, naturally, are not sitting idly by as their enemies armor up. As Politico’s Ken Vogel wrote last month, “If the Koch brothers’ political operation seemed ambitious in 2010 or 2012, wait for what’s in store for 2014 and beyond. ... This year, the Kochs’ close allies are rolling out a new, more integrated approach to politics. That includes wading into Republican primaries for the first time to ensure their ideal candidates end up on the ticket.”

The problem for progressives, as Vogel’s story and others make clear, is that in the era of unlimited outside political spending, liberals will usually be outraised by conservatives. And environmentalists will be outraised by polluters.


Obama to trucking industry: “No more rampant gas consumption for you!”


While members of Congress twiddle their thumbs and idly watch the Northeast and Midwest begin to resemble planet Hoth, California dry up into an approximation of Tatooine, and, across the pond, England transform into Dagobah, President Obama continues to push past them and take action against climate change.

That’s the end of the Star Wars references, we swear -- please don’t go.

Obama announced on Tuesday that he has ordered new, stricter fuel-efficiency rules to curb greenhouse gas emissions from large trucks. This will build on an earlier set of standards that were developed in 2011 and took effect this year. The new standards, to be drawn up by the EPA and Department of Transportation, are supposed to be finalized by 2016, before Obama leaves office, and then go into effect starting in 2018.


Lady Gaga will be making a water conservation PSA as penance for swimming pool video shoot

Philip Nelson

Lady Gaga chose California’s sprawling Hearst Castle as the setting for a "special creative project," probably the video for her latest single from FARTSLOP (isn’t that its name?). After all, if it was good enough for Spartacus, it’s good enough for the Gags. The only problem is that the estate’s leaky marble pool was drained in January because of California’s teeny-weeny drought emergency.


Here’s the deal, the Hearst Castle Foundation said. You can shoot your music video here, pool included, if you record a PSA about saving water AND donate a quarter mill to our foundation AND drop $25,000 on a local water supply study. “Unicorn omniscience swizzle stick,” Lady Gaga replied while wiggling her angular eyebrows, indicating her consent. Not only that, but the water used in the pool will be recycled, according to L.A. Times:

Read more: Living