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R.I. court reverses ruling, says paint companies not responsible for lead cleanup

Three paint companies should not have to clean up lead contamination in Rhode Island homes, the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday. The decision reverses a landmark 2006 ruling in which the state was victorious in alleging that Sherwin-Williams Co., NL Industries Inc., and Millennium Holdings LLC created a public nuisance by manufacturing and selling lead-based paint, despite knowing it was unsafe. Lead paint was banned in the U.S. in 1978, but some 240,000 homes in Rhode Island still contain it. The court decided 4-0 that the companies should not be on the hook to spend an estimated $2.4 billion for …

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Three guidebooks for a dream vacation at your dining-room table

Eat your way around the world, without leaving home. If you had to choose one place in the world to go for a summer break, where would it be? For me, it would be a place I stayed once in Puglia, at the heel of Italy's boot. In 2003, my friends and I spent a week at an agriturismo operation -- a working organic olive farm that doubled as a kind of low-key rural hotel. Our quarters were in the cellar of a 17th century farmhouse, so during a heat wave that turned even the night into a cauldron, we …

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Milk jug gets a makeover

Another example of how carbon constraints may benefit big box retailers

Wal-Mart and Costco have adopted a version of the one-gallon milk jug designed with efficiency in mind. The boxier containers stack better, eliminating the need for milk crates and conserving space in trucks and on refrigerated store shelves: The company estimates this kind of shipping has cut labor by half and water use by 60 to 70 percent. More gallons fit on a truck and in Sam's Club coolers, and no empty crates need to be picked up, reducing trips to each Sam's Club store to two a week, from five -- a big fuel savings. Also, Sam's Club can …

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Drought hampering Fourth of July celebrations

Friday is July 4, otherwise known in the U.S. as the Fourth of July. Independence-celebrating Americans are accustomed to gazing upon red-glaring rockets, air-bursting bombs, and other shows of pyrotechnic pomp -- but this year, many fireworks shows may lose their sparkle. Because of drought conditions, many shows across the country have been canceled, and several places will impose fines on backyard detonations as well. In California, where lightning-sparked wildfires are raging, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told residents this week, "Don't buy the fireworks, don't go out and play with fireworks, because it's just too dry and too dangerous to do …

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Green Onion

The Onion's green issue is out, and it's a doozy -- from eco-junkies recycling ("If you come across an old needle lying around, by all means, use it"), to crediting Working Assets' long-distance with the planet's survival, to an opinion piece by a smokestack ("Soon, my tummy starts to feel full. And when I feel like I can't hold any more, out pop the wonderful clouds!"). They even get in a poke at Steven Johnson! Priceless.

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15 green books you can actually read at the beach

Green books that are fun to read? What a novel idea. So maybe you'll finally have a chance to catch up on some reading this summer. But so many of those books about the environment seem kind of ... well, homework-y. What's a vacationing enviro to do? Turn to Grist for advice, of course! Here are 15 recent page-turners just perfect for stuffing in your hemp beach tote. Got sunny-day suggestions of your own? Let us know in the comments section below. The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring Richard Preston, Random House, 2007 Think nature writing is …

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An interview with author James Howard Kunstler

Author and social critic James Howard Kunstler, known for predicting our post-peak-oil future in nonfiction works such as The Long Emergency, has also brought his forecasts to life through fiction. His newest novel, World Made By Hand, describes the near future in a small town in upstate New York -- not unlike the place Kunstler himself lives today -- where a chain of global crises has forced the community to fend for itself. Despite the tragedy and violence that surround his characters, Kunstler says his vision of the future isn't nearly as grim as it might seem. "I resent the …

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An absorbing news story

A nice bit of engineering problem solving! Anything that discourages people from switching from incandescents (5 percent useful light, 95 percent wasted energy) to compact fluorescent bulbs while we wait for the prices on good LED bulbs to come down is a bad thing. One thing you hear from the nutjobs is how terrible the mercury in CFL bulbs is, and what an EPA nightmare you will have on your hands if you break one of these in your house. A clever solution is pending: Providing a small bit of mercury absorbing treated cloth with the bulbs so that, in …

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A new way of thinking

Manufactured Landscapes is as good as they say

Obviously I need to watch movies faster. Almost a year ago today I posted about wanting to watch Manufactured Landscapes, featuring the work of photographer Edward Burtynsky, mainly shot in China. I finally got around to it. Not only is the movie visually arresting, but it is very, very disturbing. Surprisingly to me, the sparse narration includes a pretty good description of peak oil. The filmmaker, Jennifer Baichwal, shows some incredible aerial shots of a ginormous highway octopus interchange and Burtynsky talks about what he calls his "oil epiphany" while he was driving one day, when he realized that nearly …

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Oh lord, won't you clean up my Mercedes-Benz?

Mercedes to offer a petroleum-free lineup by 2015

In the next seven years, Mercedes-Benz wants to eliminate petroleum-powered vehicles from its lineup. According to AutoblogGreen, "The German giant is working on a variety of technologies that will help provide crude oil free transport such as battery electrics, fuel cells and highly efficient internal combustion engines that can operate on biofuels." The automaker already has two new powertrains in either the concept or trial stages of development. The concept F700, which debuted in Frankfurt in fall 2007, is powered by a DiesOtto engine that combines Homogenous Charge Compression Ignition with spark ignition to get nearly the same efficiency as …

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