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Grist List: Look what we found.


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New research shows Big Tobacco targets black kids

Photo by Fried Dough.

Big Tobacco agreed way back in 1998 to stop marketing [PDF] cigarettes to kids. Turns out cigarette companies are still up to their old tricks -- they’re just being slightly more stealth about it.

Researchers from California’s Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program recently examined the advertising of menthol and Newport-brand cigarettes in the state. They found a much greater prevalence of cigarette advertising in areas near high schools with significant populations of African American students.

“There is a systematic targeting (of disadvantaged communities) by the tobacco industry, which is an extraordinary public health problem,” said Lisa Henriksen of the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who presented the research at a legislative briefing in Sacramento last week. “The addition of menthol to cigarettes makes it easier to smoke and more difficult to quit.”

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Oil shale: An environmental disaster waiting to happen?

It used to be that oil came from a hole drilled in the ground. But as oil has become more scarce, the ways of getting at it have become more numerous -- so much so that it's getting hard to keep track. Oil sands, shale oil, oil shale: These are all different sources of oil. And if you can't keep them straight, well, rest assured the oil industry will.

The Council on Foreign Relations' Michael Levi argues that it's oil shale that might be the extraction point to watch in the coming years:

“Oil shale” is basically rock that contains kerogen. You melt it (loosely speaking) to produce oil. It was a hot prospect in the late 1970s, but when the price of oil crashed, so did development.

Developing oil shale requires huge investments and hasn't made economic sense yet. But at a hearing last week, a former Bush administration official was hitting the Obama administration for limiting oil shale development options.

Read more: Oil

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Watch two guys remove a honeybee swarm with their bare hands

Town and Country Pest Control is a father-son business in upstate New York that takes a holy-shit approach to its work. For instance, in the video below, they remove a bee colony with their bare hands and a box:

But as any bee-savvy keeper will tell you, this isn't as crazy as it looks. Swarms of honey bees like this one are likely searching for a new place to establish a hive. Since they've broken off from an established colony and aren't sure when they'll have a new home, they'll have fattened up on a bunch of honey, which makes stinging difficult. In general, though, honey bees just aren't that dangerous [PDF], beekeepers associations say:

A honey bee sting is rare indeed -- even when bees are swarming. If a honey bee stings, it is usually to defend the hive that contains its young and its food supply -- the honey bee dies as its stinger is ripped from its body.

There's even a long tradition of "bee bearding" -- attracting bees to you and letting them hang out on your body in the shape of a beard.

Read more: Animals

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James Cameron wants to mine asteroids for precious metals. Seriously.

James Cameron is really starting to take his movies too seriously. Last month, the director descended the Mariana Trench in a submarine all beginning-of-Titanic style. Now Cameron and a bunch of other super-rich dudes say they are bankrolling a project to mine space asteroids for precious metals and rare minerals. (Remember Avatar? A bunch of greedy Americans invade a pristine alien planet to extract natural resources. Chaos -- and alien/human love -- ensue.)

Cameron joins Google execs Eric Schimdt and Larry Page, Peter Diamandis (of X Prize fame), Eric Anderson, and other multi-millionaires in launching Planetary Resources, a new company focused on space exploration and innovation. The long-term plan is for the company to mine asteroids for precious metals. Apparently asteroids are veritable treasure troves -- a 98-foot asteroid can hold anywhere from $25 billion to $50 billion worth of platinum.

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These toxic household cleaners can cause asthma or burn your lungs

Ah, America. The country where you're allowed to buy products containing hazardous chemicals that other countries have banned. The Environmental Working Group, the people who brought you the Dirty Dozen list of foods to buy organic, are taking an extensive look at the chemicals in more than 2,000 cleaning products. The group's researchers are months away from being done, but they have already found a slew of products that contain chemicals that are banned abroad, emit toxic fumes that can burns your lungs or eyes, or can cause asthma.

Read more: Green Home

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Critical List: Nigeria oil spill 60 times bigger than reported; Arctic Ocean methane

Amnesty International found documents showing that a 2008 Shell oil spill in Nigeria was 60 times bigger than the company claimed.

And in Russia, 2,000 tons of oil spilled from a well over two days. But, really, who knows how much oil it was?

The thawing Arctic Ocean is releasing gobs of methane into the atmosphere.

Figuring out how climate change is going to affect Himalayan glaciers: actually really tricky!

Read more: Uncategorized

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Modern day Moby Dick? Check out this super rare, all-white killer whale

Swim aside, Moby Dick -- there’s a new white whale in town. Researchers recently spotted what is believed to be the only all-white adult orca whale in existence. The Moby Dick doppelganger is making quite a splash in the wildlife community.

White whales of various species are occasionally seen; but the only known white orcas have been young, including one with a rare genetic condition that died in a Canadian aquarium in 1972.

Researchers know that this white whale -- whom they’ve named “Iceberg” -- is definitely an adult: His two-meter-long (6.5-feet-long) dorsal fin proves that he’s at least 16 years old.

Read more: Animals

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Houstonians want walkable neighborhoods

Car-centric Houston tends to be one of our go-to examples for everything that can go wrong with a city, ever. But we may not be able to use the city as a whipping boy much longer. According to a new survey, Houstonians are seeing the light on walkable and transit-accessible neighborhoods. More than half of the people surveyed said they would settle for a smaller home if it meant living near offices, restaurants, and stores.

Yes, this is in Texas! To be fair, Stephen Klineberg, who created this survey in 1982, sounded as surprised as we are. He told the Houston Chronicle that Houston residents' desire for "a less car-centered, more urban lifestyle" was "the most dramatic change" in this year's survey. In 2010, only 39 percent of people surveyed opted for the smaller house over a single-family home with a big yard that required total car-dependency. This time around, 51 percent chose the smaller, better located house. 

Read more: Cities

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Deadly tree disease could wipe out California’s citrus industry

Photo by Yellow. Cat.

Hide ya’ lemons, hide ya’ limes -- a deadly disease is coming for California’s citrus trees.

State ag experts recently found a tree that tested positive for Huanglongbing--and yes, it is way more serious than its sing-songy name suggests. The bacteria, also known as citrus greening or yellow dragon disease, attacks a trees’ vascular system and kills them off within a few years. The disease has no known cure, and it's had disastrous impacts on citrus trees in China, Brazil, and Florida.

For now scientists have only spotted the infection in a lonely tree, but the situation is understandably sending state officials into full-blown panic mode. California produces 80 percent of America’s citrus fruits and the majority of its fresh-market oranges. Killing citrus trees would wipe out a $2 billion industry in the state.

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Climate denier campaigns have zero impact on belief in global warming

It's hard sometimes to ignore climate deniers: They're so wrong! About everything! But the biggest impact they seem to be having is just that: annoying environmentalists. Denialist campaigns have had little influence on the 30 percent of people who are skeptical about climate science, ABC News reports. The one thing that does change those people's opinions? The weather.

Read more: Climate Skeptics