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McDonald’s new sustainable fish is — surprise! — not so sustainable

This week, McDonald's announced that it will start serving a lot more fast-food fish starting next month, in the form of "Fish McBites" that it hopes will boost sales.

The company also announced that all those bites, plus its Filet-O-Fish sandwiches, will be made from sustainable, wild-caught Alaska pollock, with the Marine Stewardship Council's stamp of approval right there on the box.

Marine Stewardship Council

The MSC "is proud to support McDonald's and its commitment to sustainability." The fast-food giant has been serving four kinds of MSC-labeled sustainable fish in European locations since October 2011.

Is this the part where I'm supposed to say, "Yay McDonald's"? Because yeah, that's not happening.


Congratulations to ExxonMobil, the new largest company in the world

Congratulations to our friends at ExxonMobil, once again the largest company in the world. I think we can all agree that this is a deserved promotion, given how much more ExxonMobil brings to our lives than does Apple. How much more good ExxonMobil does for the planet. Capitalism, guys: It works.

Reuters explains what happened:

Exxon Mobil briefly overtook Apple as the largest U.S. publicly traded company by market value on Friday as shares of the technology giant continued to fall.

Apple shares traded down 2 percent on the day at $441.31, down from a high above $700 set in September, for a market value of roughly $416 billion. Exxon shares, flat on the day at $91.33, added to a market value of about $416.5 billion.

Apple has closed the day as the largest company by market capitalization since late January last year, when it passed Exxon.

Or, in English: A publicly traded company's market cap is its value calculated by multiplying its share price by the number of public shares it offers. As of a second ago, here's what that looked like for each company.

apple market cap
exxon market cap


During the coldest week in decades, some Sandy-damaged homes still don’t have heat

It has been 87 days since Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast. The past three of those days have fallen during the coldest week in New York City in 17 years.

From The New York Times:

As the region suffers through a brutal cold snap this week, with temperatures so punishing that uncovered slivers of flesh feel like paper cuts and the slightest wind can send a chill through the teeth like a Popsicle, the best solution seems not to leave home. But for many people whose boilers were flooded by seawater during Hurricane Sandy and still languish, awaiting repair, home is as frigid as the outdoors.

Residents who have made do with cold homes under extra blankets and triple socks since the storm hit in October face new challenges as the thermometer continues to dip. Temperatures this week have been about 10 to 15 degrees lower than midwinter averages, according to the National Weather Service, and are expected to slide into the teens over the next few nights, and could even fall into the single digits in parts of the region.

As of Tuesday, New York City’s Rapid Repairs construction teams had restored heat, hot water or power to 12,247 residences in 7,112 buildings, according to Peter Spencer, the spokesman for the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery. But work is continuing in an additional 1,893 buildings, a substantial portion of which, Mr. Spencer estimated, remain without heat.

Daniel Choi's house doesn't have heat, the Times reports. Neither does Devon Lawrence's. Retired nurse Hazel Beckett is warming bricks on her stove to stay warm.

Breezy Point, Long Island
Breezy Point, Long Island.


Beijing’s air is dirty for the same reason yours might be: Polluting neighbors

Yesterday, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., issued a major blow to efforts to curb air pollution. A lower court last year struck down the EPA’s cross-state air pollution rule, and the appeals court declined to reconsider the case. The rule aimed to reduce air pollution that travels from one state to another, a situation that limits the ability of the polluted state to take action against polluters.

The problem is perhaps best illustrated by what's now happening in China. Today in Beijing, the air quality is "unhealthy," according to the automatic sensor atop the U.S. embassy. Two weeks ago, it was five times worse, drawing the world's attention to a problem that had become literally visible in the Chinese capital. This is what the air looked like two days ago, on Wednesday, as the country's legislature held its annual meeting.

The mayor of Beijing attempted to explain that his city has made progress. From Xinhua:

At the first session of the 14th Beijing Municipal People's Congress on Tuesday, acting mayor Wang Anshun said in a work report that the density of major pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, has dropped by an average of 29 percent over the past five years.

The high percentage stirred debate among deputies on Wednesday, as the current smog could make residents suspicious over the truthfulness of the figure. Some deputies even advised deleting the reference from the report to avoid disputes from the public.

Wang's data on pollution levels may be questionable, but there is an argument that he could make effectively: It's not all Beijing's fault.


When trees die, so do we

Trees! Everyone loves trees. They soak up carbon, make stuff pretty, and have been shown to keep crime down in cities. It's pretty clear our fates are tied to the trees'. Sooo, what happens when they all die? Uhh, so do we.


Millions of ash trees in the Eastern and Midwestern U.S. are being chomped to bits by a beetle called the emerald ash borer. But those beetles aren't just hurting trees. From Discovery:

[I]n the neighborhoods hit by the beetle that kills ash trees, researchers noticed a stark rise in human mortality from cardiovascular and lower respiratory disease: there were 15,000 more deaths from cardiovascular disease, or 16.7 additional deaths per year per 100,000 adults, and 6,000 more deaths from lower respiratory disease than in unaffected areas, or 6.8 additional deaths per year per 100,000 adults.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


Could the sharing economy kill public transit?

Ken Schmier is a Bay Area transit guru. He's essentially responsible for the limitless Muni Fast Pass in San Francisco, and created the NextBus application in the 2000s to help people catch those ever-elusive city buses. But now Schmier is thinking transit may not be all it's cracked up to be.

abandoned bus

“Frankly,” the Bay Area attorney and businessman told Next City, “I think transit agencies are obsolete.”

Blame that damn sharing economy.

Schmier is now all about what he calls “Micro-Transit” -- in other words, ride-sharing, or turning regular cars into taxis.

sharing-economy-detailThe Bay Area already has Casual Car Pool, a long-standing ride-share project that relies on a vintage website and message board instead of the smartphones and big money of new ride-sharing ventures. It’s kind of an organized form of hitchhiking, and it really works.

Schmier wants to make this general idea more efficient, scalable, and tech-savvy. From Next City:

Read more: Cities


Hey evil coal boss: Is it also Obama’s fault if you’re hiring workers back?

Robert Murray
Reuters / Danny Moloshok

This guy! We haven't seen Robert Murray since around election time and, to be honest, we missed him. He's the closest thing we've got in the 21st century to an evil 19th-century coal baron, hellbent on profit and laughing heartily at the misfortunes of the poor. He's retro. That's always fun.

Last time we heard from Murray was when he sent a prayer to his local West Virginia paper lamenting how the reelection of Barack Obama meant he had to fire a bunch of his staff. (Was it the staff that he docked a day's pay to appear in a Romney ad? Was it the staff he forced to contribute to his political action fund? We may never know.) So, wiping away big fucking crocodile tears, Murray wrote these powerful words:

The American people have made their choice. They have decided that America must change its course, away from the principals of our Founders. And, away from the idea of individual freedom and individual responsibility. Away from capitalism, economic responsibility, and personal acceptance. ...

Lord, please forgive me and anyone with me in Murray Energy Corp. for the decisions that we are now forced to make to preserve the very existence of any of the enterprises that you have helped us build.

Then: boom, pink slips, because Obama is killing coal and hates white people, probably. Boo-fucking-hoo, Robert Murray is so sad.


Kerry comes out strong for clean energy in nomination hearing

Right now on Capitol Hill, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is being grilled by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as it considers his nomination to be secretary of state. Well, not grilled exactly. Smiled at, mostly. So far, the most contentious issue has been the 9/11 attack in Benghazi, Libya, in part because the Republican members who failed to unsettle Hillary Clinton on the topic yesterday are trying to save face.

kerry hearing
Kerry appears before the Senate committee.

The next secretary of state -- who will 100 percent certainly be Kerry unless he suddenly moves to Canada or is photographed giving nuclear waste to terrorists and even then the odds only drop to 80 percent -- will be responsible for signing off on the permit that will allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The topic has come up during today's confirmation hearing. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) raised it, as did Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.). Each time, Kerry punted, suggesting that he needed to study the issue more. This is probably the most we're going to hear on the issue during this hearing.

But Kerry went long on climate change and clean energy in response to another question from Barrasso. Here's the exchange:


Cool job posting: Earn $20 pretending to hate wind energy

Important job opportunity, everyone. From Craigslist:

Our firm needs 100 volunteers to attend and participate in a rally in front of the British Consulate/Embassy in Midtown Manhattan on the East Side on Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 12 noon. The event is being held in order to protest wind turbines that are being built in Scotland and England. Your participation will be to ONLY stand next to or behind the speakers and elected officials/celebrities that will be speaking at the rally.

"Volunteers" will each get $20. That's the going rate in New York City for a closely held political principle.

This is sort of what protestors look like
This is sort of what protestors look like.


Utah Republican proposes bill to prepare for climate-change-worsened wildfires

Yesterday, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment declared that the air in Salt Lake City constituted a health emergency. From CBS News:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has singled out the greater Salt Lake region as having the nation's worst air for much of January, when an icy fog smothers mountain valleys for days or weeks at a time and traps lung-busting soot.

That's what led more than 100 Utah doctors to petition state officials on Wednesday. They suggest lowering highway speed limits, making mass transit free for the winter and curbing industrial activities. They also call for a permanent ban on wood-burning, and want large employees to let people work from home.

Levels of soot in the air around Salt Lake City reached 130 micrograms per cubic meter -- well above the EPA's clean air standard of 35 micrograms.

Smog over Salt Lake City, 2006
Smog over Salt Lake City, 2006.

Interestingly, at about the same time that the physicians group made its declaration, a (Republican!) state legislator in Utah introduced a bill targeting one key contributor to air pollution and soot: wildfires. Climate change is expected to vastly increase the number of wildfires in the state, for which Rep. Kraig Powell suggests the state should plan in advance. From The Salt Lake Tribune: