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Grist List: Look what we found.


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Buckle up for more weather weirdness, America

Last year, the climate phenomenon La Niña messed with everyone's heads. La Niña conditions mean that the ocean temperature in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean are colder than usual, and this was responsible for (among other things) the uncannily warm winter that the Northeast has been having. Sorry, can't blame that on climate change! Yet.

NASA's climate-tracking satellites have picked up indications that this round of La Niña is peaking.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Microsoft’s ‘avoid ghetto’ app is kind of gross

Microsoft has come up with an app for people traveling by foot that will route them around areas with high crime rates. This function is being called the "avoid ghetto" feature (not by Microsoft, of course, because they're not that dense), and it's, uh, controversial.

As a person who sometimes walks around in cities at night by herself, I don't think this is a totally terrible idea: as Anna North writes at Jezebel, "women might find sex crime information useful when planning routes," although "since most rape victims already know their attackers, walking alone likely isn't when you're at the greatest risk." But as Next American City points out, the app has the potential to make high-crime areas worse by blacklisting them:

[T]his feature at best serves to maintain the status quo, highlighting the divide that separates blighted areas from thriving ones, and discouraging people from ever crossing it.

Steering pedestrians away from neglected areas only prolongs their “ghetto” status, denying the attention needed to fill storefronts with businesses and populate streets with enough people to counteract crime.

Read more: Cities

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Obama’s first ad focuses on green jobs

President Obama released the first ad of his reelection campaign, and it's about clean energy jobs and oil independence -- plus, it hits back at a Koch-funded attack ad that fudged the facts. This is unusually green (as in actually mentioning green issues) and unusually brass (as in balls)! Let's hope it keeps up.

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TransCanada must hate Republicans right now

You know who is probably most peeved at Republicans for trying to score political points over the Keystone XL schedule? TransCanada. Because while Republicans’ huffing over the administration’s decision to 86 the pipeline permit will affect Obama about .00001 percent, TransCanada’s stock took a dive and now has the potential to become what analysts call “dead money” — just a really bad stock to invest in, basically.

TransCanada has already announced it’s going to reapply for a new pipeline route. But it’s hard to know whether the company means it when the CEO says "he expects [the Keystone XL pipeline’s new] review would be ‘expedited,’ allowing the firm to stick to its schedule.”

Read more: Oil, Politics

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The European Union bans battery cages for hens

In the European Union, hens can no longer be kept in tiny battery cages that pack them so tightly they could not walk or flap their wings.

The EU voted to ban the cages in 1999 but gave the poultry industry 12 years to implement the switch-over. As of 2012, the use of battery cages is illegal. The new cages give hens more space and must have nest boxes, which animal welfare experts say are key to keeping chickens from stressing out. (They need a little bit of privacy to feel comfortable laying an egg, which is understandable! Would you want to lay an egg in the middle of a crowd?) Some farmers have also switched over to barns or free-range systems.

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Critical List: Republicans still want Keystone XL; Obama ad focuses on energy

The State Department denied TransCanada's permit application for the Keystone XL pipeline. President Obama agreed, saying that he was rejecting the permit because Republicans wouldn’t stop trying to force the pipeline forward.

Republicans are responding to this by looking into legislation that would force the pipeline forward. They’re also asking Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to come testify on yesterday’s decision next week.

House Republicans ALSO want to promote ethanol derived from … natural gas and coal. And they want to classify it as renewable fuel. What? It’s ethanol!

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Keystone XL shot down, Republicans whine about it

The State Department has recommended that the Keystone XL pipeline application be "determined not to serve the national interest," and President Obama has agreed -- not even because it's a disaster waiting to happen, but because (just as Dave Roberts predicted!) Republicans just could not sit down and shut up for five minutes.

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Biggest output of U.S. oil and gas industry is dirty water

The bad news:

"Every day, U.S. oil and gas producers bring to the surface 60 million barrels of waste water, with a salt content up to 20 times higher than sea water and laced with hazardous chemicals," reports John Kemp of Reuters. In an aging well, as much as 98 percent of the stuff that comes to the surface can be water.

Read more: Oil

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Pop-up Starbucks made of shipping containers

Photo by Starbucks

Recycling shipping containers into houses and environmental centers has been the new architectural hotness for a while, but what good are houses and environmental centers when you can't get coffee? This four-carton Starbucks near Seattle (go fig) offers a recycled alternative to your strip-mall Starbucks.

Read more: Living

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Clean energy policies create more jobs than Keystone

Obama is poised to reject Keystone XL this afternoon, so brace for a lot of Republican bellyaching about how he obviously doesn’t care about jobs. There is a problem with this line of argument, and it’s that it is nonsense. Don't believe us? Check out this graph, from ThinkProgress, which shows how Obama administration policies like the much-maligned loan guarantee program and the EPA toxic pollution rule will create many, many more jobs than Keystone construction: