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Grist List: Look what we found.


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Mercury-loaded cosmetics target minority communities

Beauty may only be skin deep, but the damage from cosmetics reaches way down into the kidneys, brains, and other organs -- at least, it does if those cosmetics contain mercury, as several brands do, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). What’s even worse is that these mercury-loaded cosmetics are targeted specifically towards historically marginalized communities.

The recent FDA report found that heavy-metal-filled skin care products, soaps, and cosmetics are found mainly in stores frequented by people of Latino, African-American, Asian, and Middle Eastern descent.

The FDA has counted 35 potentially poisonous products, which include goods made by the brands Diana, Stillman’s, Lusco and Crema Aguamary, that are manufactured abroad and sold illegally in the U.S. They may claim to lighten skin, cure acne and reduce wrinkles.

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Delicious, edible food packaging could curb plastic waste

If you want to know why the earth and waterways are quickly morphing into giant garbage heaps, look no further than your pudding cup. Desserts, sodas, yogurts, and every other processed treat that comes tucked inside a plastic container are creating a slew of plastic pollution. But Harvard scientist David Edwards has an innovative -- and tasty! -- solution: Make packaging as delicious as the goods held inside.

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Watch today’s solar flare erupt from the sun

Two solar flares burst out of the sun on March 6.

NASA notes: "One of the most dramatic features is the way the entire surface of the sun seems to ripple with the force of the eruption." Badass!

Image by NASA.

The first flare was the second largest of this solar cycle (which started in 2009), and it's traveling at 1,300 miles per second, which means it could sweep the continental United States in less than three seconds. It was scheduled to reach Earth at 1 a.m. EST this morning -- give or take 7 hours.

Which means it's already hit. And all's quiet in the New York City outpost of GristList -- no high-accuracy GPS failures, no massive internet shutdown.

Read more: Solar Power

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Oh my god, now there’s a live polar bear cam??

Photo from Siku's Facebook page.

I apologize to people who thought they were ever going to get anything accomplished again, but now you can watch a gamboling baby polar bear after you get bored with live penguins. (AS IF you were going to get bored with the penguins.)

Read more: Animals

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In 2014, corn biofuel is out, wood biofuel is in

Biofuel sounds like a pretty good idea -- down with power plants, up with regular plants! -- but if the country switches over to corn ethanol we will basically be unable to grow any other crops. A new study has calculated that corn destined for ethanol production would have to take over 80 percent of current farmland in order for the country to meet current biofuel goals. But next generation biofuels can come from many other plants besides corn. And for the first time, they might be commercially viable.

Read more: Biofuel

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Map shows what a U.S. Fukushima could have looked like

With the one-year anniversary of the Fukushima reactor crisis approaching, the Natural Resources Defense Council has put together a mapping tool that lets you envision what could have happened if one of the 104 U.S. reactors had suffered a similar accident. The take-home message: If you live on the East Coast, you're practically guaranteed to be in some power plant's 50-mile contamination zone.

Read more: Nuclear

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Critical List: Solar storm to hit today; the U.S. is a net exporter of petroleum products

Solar storm a-comin'! Batten down the planet! Seriously, it's today and it's supposed to be the strongest in six years, which is confusing because the one two months ago was supposed to be the strongest in seven years and how does THAT work? Anyway, it could "disrupt power grids, satellites, oil pipelines, and high-accuracy GPS systems."

Barack Obama announced $1 billion in government support for alternative vehicles yesterday.

Here's the official James Hansen "I’m just a reticent midwestern scientist" TED talk (sponsored by Goldman Sachs?). He explains why he decided to get arrested in front of the White House.

The Senate is going to vote on approving Keystone XL and on delaying EPA air pollution regulations for industrial boilers.

Read more: Uncategorized

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Entire nation of Kiribati has to move to avoid rising seas

The Pacific island nation of Kiribati is moving up in the world -- but not in the good way. The small country is looking to relocate to higher ground in order to escape rising seas brought on by climate change.

Some of Kiribati’s 32 coral atolls have already started to disappear beneath the waves. President Anote Tong and his countrymen fear that continued sea level rise will wipe their civilization out entirely unless they relocate to Fiji lickety-split. Tong is reportedly in discussions with Fiji’s military government to buy 5,000 acres of land on the country’s second largest island, Vanua Levu.

"This is the last resort, there's no way out of this one," Mr Tong said. "Our people will have to move as the tides have reached our homes and villages."

Depending on when Kiribati makes its big move, the country could be the world’s first modern climate-induced migration.

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New Melbourne restaurant runs on your pee

Melbourne’s Greenhouse restaurant wants your patronage. But more importantly, it wants your pee.

That’s right -- this pop-up restaurant, which is open from March 2 through the 21st in honor of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, wants you to get all up in its custom-made toilets. The green eatery is collecting human urine and using it to fertilize soybean and canola crops. The restaurant, which is designed by Joost Bakker who is clearly a maniac, then uses unrefined canola oil to generate electricity for all of its operations.

Urine may seem an unorthodox energy source, but it is actually a great source of fertilizer when diluted. According to Bakker, “Urine is incredible for nitrogen, it’s so valuable -- you only need the urine of 25 people to provide fertilizer for a hectare of crop.”

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Japanese zoo tries to make endangered alligators have sex

Photo by michael baltic.

There are only 150 or so Chinese alligators left in the wild, which means that if they had any sense of mortality, these critters would be breeding like crazy.

But apparently they don't have the "survival of the fittest" will to reproduce, or maybe they just have a headache. So one Japanese zoo tried to set the mood by beating taiko drums, "because of its similarity to the animals' natural pre-coital cry," reports Agence-France Presse.

Read more: Animals