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Gristmill: Fresh, whole-brain news.


Idiot shoots horse on camera to promote horsemeat

Tim Sappington sent some kind of a message by killing this horse on camera.

Tim Sappington wants to promote the eating of horsemeat, but he really isn't helping his cause.

In a video now stirring up outrage on YouTube, Sappington is shown with a colt on his property. "All you animal activists, fuck you,” he says. Then he pulls a handgun from its holster and aims it between the animal’s eyes. He pulls the trigger. As the horse lies convulsing on the ground with its legs kicking in the air, Sappington walks away and mutters, “Good.”

The killing appears to have been perfectly legal. The U.S. banned the slaughter of horses in 2006, but the ban quietly expired in 2011.

Read more: Food, Living, Politics


Obama creates five new national monuments

Shutterstock / Mariia Sats

President Barack Obama doesn’t just think the San Juan Islands are awesome. He thinks they are monumentally awesome.

Obama today will announce the designation of five new national monuments, including nearly 1,000 acres on the San Juan archipelago off the coast of Washington state.

That will more than double his monument-designating tally under the 1906 Antiquities Act to a total of nine.

Read more: Politics


Senate gives a big, fat thumbs-up to Keystone XL

Keystone protestors in front of Capitol
The Senate was not listening to these guys.

The vote was non-binding but all too telling. On Friday, the U.S. Senate voted 62 to 37 in favor of building the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline, with 17 Democrats joining all of the Republicans. It was just an amendment to a budget plan that won't even be going to the president's desk, but it shows that the political class in D.C. views the pipeline very favorably -- and believes voters view it very favorably too.

From The Washington Post:

The 17 Democrats who voted yes included every single possibly vulnerable incumbent facing reelection next year, from 34-year veteran [Max] Baucus [Mont.] to first-term Sen. Mark Begich (Alaska).

Perhaps more importantly, Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.), who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, voted for the resolution. Bennet is not up for re-election until 2016, but his post requires him to raise money from the wealthy liberal community that is highly opposed to the pipeline.

Additionally, a crop of Democrats who survived difficult reelections in 2012 — Sens. Bob Casey (Pa.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Bill Nelson (Fla.) and Jon Tester (Mont.) — all supported the GOP Keystone amendment.

Did fossil-fuel money have anything to do with the vote? You be the judge:


EPA sued over failure to protect bees from pesticides

A federal courtroom will bee-come a hive of activity, with lawyers attempting to sting the government into action over buzz-killing insecticides.
A federal courtroom will bee-come a hive of activity, with lawyers attempting to sting the government into action over buzz-killing insecticides.

The battle for the bees is headed to court.

Beekeepers and activist groups, fed up with the wanton use of insecticides that kill bees and other pollinators, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday. They are suing to try to force the EPA to ban or better regulate neonicotinoids and other pesticides that kill bees and butterflies and lead to colony collapse disorder.

From a press release put out by the Center for Food Safety, one of the plaintiffs in the case:


Ohio fracking boom has not brought jobs

Jason Shenk

Did you hear the joke about how fracking creates jobs?

We heard it, too. We heard it from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. We heard it from the fracking industry. We heard it from the press.

Well here comes a punchline that's darker than a fracker's heart: In northeastern Ohio, where a fracking boom kicked off 2011, there was no more jobs growth last year than there was in the state's unfracked western and southern regions.

That's the conclusion of a new report [PDF] published by Cleveland State University's Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs. The report was not peer-reviewed.


Environmentalists and gas companies sing Kumbaya, create voluntary fracking standards

Energy companies and environmentalists are totally holding hands and singing around a campfire in Pennsylvania.
Shutterstock / Alexander Ishchenko
Energy companies and enviros are totally holding hands and singing around a campfire in Pennsylvania.

Environmentalists struck a rare accord with oil and gas companies this week, agreeing on fracking standards that aim to protect air and water quality and the climate as the Marcellus Shale formation in the northeastern U.S. is mined.

The new and oxymoronically named Center for Sustainable Shale Development was created through an agreement struck by energy companies, the Environmental Defense Fund and other green groups, and Pennsylvania philanthropies. The center will provide certification for oil and gas companies that follow the new standards while fracking the expansive shale formation, which is centered in Pennsylvania and stretches from New York to Kentucky.

Oil and gas companies have no binding requirement to achieve certification from the new center, and environmentalists say it is no substitute for regulations. That said, both camps think its neat.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Read more: Climate & Energy


Here are a couple of weather experts who actually believe in climate change

newspaper-clippings-nightmare-weather.jpgThings are weird at the Weather Company, you guys. While a lot of other TV meteorologists are really screwing up the climate change conversation, the Weather Company folks, who run the Weather Channel and Weather Underground, "insert climate into every weather story," says CEO David Kenny. "We’re scientific journalists. We start with science and try to tell scientifically based stories. It’s not a political point of view," Kenny told Fast Co.Exist.


More from Fast Co.Exist:

Plenty of people get their weather reports from the Weather Company’s TV shows, apps, and websites. But what about everyone else? TV meterologists have become infamous in recent years for their reticence to discuss climate change -- and in some cases, for their lack of belief in climate change at all. One TV storm tracker in San Diego (who also happens to be a co-founder of the Weather Channel) went so far recently as to say that global warming is a "fictional, manufactured crisis."

In fact, the Weather Company provides weather data to many TV meteorologists. These days, the company is also trying to provide climate change facts. "Most meteorologists, if you actually give them the science, they come around," says Kenny. "Most now believe it, but are afraid to talk about it."

Read more: Climate & Energy


Can San Jose’s green vision live up to its hype?

Clean technology is being developed in Silicon Valley, but we aren't exactly looking to that low-rise beigey sprawl for leadership when it comes to green urban innovation. But maybe we should? And I don't mean in a let's-build-a-dense-tech-worker-utopia kind of way.

Image (5) san_josesmaller.jpg for post 31443Sprawling San Jose, Calif.

San Jose, Calif., the valley's largest city and the 10th biggest in the country, launched its 15-year green plan in 2007, and so far it's coming along swimmingly. This past October, the first Clean Tech Index named the city No. 1 in the country for its clean green (mean?) innovations. From LED street lights to the soon-to-open CleanTech Demonstration Center to a goal of running entirely on renewable energy (it's at 20 percent now), San Jose is thinking big when it's thinking green, KQED reports.

“[The renewables goal is] going to mean radical changes, but this is a valley that does things in radical ways,” says Carl Guardino, president of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG), which represents hundreds of local businesses.

“Silicon Valley and San Jose Mayor [Chuck] Reed sets audacious goals,” adds Guardino. “If we fall a little short, just think of how far we would have come.”

San Jose has helped change national standards for LED street lights and is now saving thousands of dollars using efficient, dimmable street lights. Yet it’s only replaced 4% of its 62,000 lights.

Read more: Cities


Construction begins on new nuclear reactors in Georgia

Where now there are two nuclear reactors, soon there will be four.
Georgia Power Company
Where now there are two nuclear reactors, soon there will be four.

Advocates of building a low-carbon economy with nuclear power can rejoice: Construction is underway to build America's first new nuclear reactors in 30 years.

But any residents of Waynsboro, Ga., who are concerned about the threat of radiation leaks or meltdown at the nearby nuclear plant will soon have twice as much reason to worry.

Plant Vogtle, where two nuclear reactors have operated since the late 1980s, is expanding. Two new reactors are scheduled to be up and running by 2018 -- assuming there are no more delays, which would be an unwise assumption. The project is backed by an $8.3 billion loan guarantee from the Obama administration.


Major grocers on frankenfish: ‘Hell no, we won’t sell that!’

Blended Atlantic salmon / Chinook salmon / ocean pout, anybody?
Shutterstock / Luiz Rocha
Blended Atlantic salmon / Chinook salmon / ocean pout, anybody?

What do you call a farmed Atlantic salmon with a Chinook salmon growth-hormone gene and a DNA splice from a cold-loving eel-like fish?

Tough to market.

Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Aldi, and other grocery chains that together run more than 2,000 stores across the U.S. announced this week that they would not sell AquaBounty Technologies' AquAdvantage® Salmon, aka frankenfish, even if the Food and Drug Administration issues expected approvals.