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Multinational food companies sell everything, from polo shirts to tampons

Imagine that this past weekend, you went out in New York City and bought a new pair of fancy Diesel Jeans. Then, because you were feeling good, you indulged in a KitKat bar. You forgot your reusable water bottle at home, so you bought a bottle of Poland Spring. On the way home, you stopped by the Kiehl's store and picked up some face lotion. Oh, and you were running out of cat food, so you grabbed some Fancy Feast at the bodega around the corner.

All of those purchases would have benefitted the same company -- Nestle.

Nestle doesn't own all of those brands. But it's got a large stake, for instance, in L'Oreal, which owns Diesel. And Nestle's chief executive just joined the L'Oreal board last month.

It's not just Nestle, of course, that dominates the food system, as this map makes clear :

Click for a larger version.
Read more: Food, Living, Pollution

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Ew! Eyeless shrimp and deformed fish now routinely caught in the Gulf

Ok, this is gross. The shrimp coming out of the Gulf of Mexico two years after the BP spill have some seriously nasty stuff wrong with them. They are lacking in eyes. Their gills are full of junked up black stuff. (Not normal!) They have lesions. And yet they are making their way into grocery stores! The picture above is of a shrimp that was being sold to be eaten for dinner.

Now, I don't personally spend a lot of time looking at the insides of raw shrimp and fish and crabs. But Al Jazeera did an in-depth report on the situation, in which a slew of people who've worked in the fishing business for years say that they've never seen anything like these deformed creatures:

Read more: Food Safety, Oil, Pollution

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Six Flags’ Magic Mountain caught polluting a California river

Photo by Jeremy Thompson.

Most folks associate Six Flags' Magic Mountain with water parks, games, and thrilling roller coasters. Turns out the amusement park produces more than just smiles and old fashioned family fun -- a whole mess of water pollution.

A coalition of local environmental groups recently accused Magic Mountain of spewing pollutants and trash into the Santa Clara River, a waterway that flows 45 miles from the park before emptying into the ocean. The coalition says that if the amusement park doesn’t clean up its act within 60 days, they’ll sue -- just in time for summer vacation season.

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On 26th anniversary, Chernobyl’s crumbling seal gets new cap

Today marks the 26th anniversary of the Chernobyl explosion, the worst nuclear disaster the world has ever seen. Ukraine officials are gifting the nuclear site with an odd sort of birthday hat -- a massive containment cap, or “Chernobyl sarcophagus.”

An international drive has raised funds from governments towards building a new permanent covering to slide over a temporary concrete-and-steel shelter that was hastily erected after the disaster and is now dangerously crumbling.

The 20,000-tonne arched structure, known as the New Safe Confinement, is designed to last for a century and spans 257 meters.

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Top 10 U.S. cities with the worst air pollution

There’s good news and bad news about U.S. air pollution. We’ll hit you with the good news first.

The American Lung Association released its State of the Air 2012 report today, and the study shows some improvement in the nation’s air quality (huzzah!).

The volunteer health organization examined 2008-2010 ozone levels, the main ingredient of smog air pollution, and air-particle pollution at official measuring sites across the U.S.

Out of the 25 cities with the most ozone pollution, 22 saw improvements in air quality over last year's report. Similar advancements were seen among cities with the most year-round particle pollution.

And now for the bad news: Despite the progress, the country’s air is still woefully polluted. About 127 million Americans -- a whopping 41 percent of us -- still endure pollution levels that make it dangerous to breathe. Check out the top 10 regions with the dubious distinction of having the most year-round particle pollution. (Spoiler alert: If you’re from several parts of California, you may want to consider relocating).

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Scientists use glow-in-the-dark fish to track hormone-disrupting chemicals

Photo by University of Exeter.

Imagine if your body could tell you where and when a certain chemical is impacting your health. Scientists at the University of Exeter have done just that -- with green-glowing zebrafish, that is.

Researchers genetically engineered young zebrafish to produce a fluorescent glow in the presence of hormone-disrupting chemicals like bisphenol-A. By exposing fish to endocrine disruptors and observing when individual body parts light up, researchers can learn exactly how and at what concentrations these chemicals impact various organs and tissues. They can then make certain inferences on how endocrine disruptors impact human health.

For instance, observing the glowing fish confirmed previous findings, such as a link between bisphenol A and heart problems.

"We do see in this fish that the heart glows particularly in response to bisphenol A," Charles Tyler, the study's leader, said. "So we can target the heart and try to look at the mechanics of what is happening."

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New research shows Big Tobacco targets black kids

Photo by Fried Dough.

Big Tobacco agreed way back in 1998 to stop marketing [PDF] cigarettes to kids. Turns out cigarette companies are still up to their old tricks -- they’re just being slightly more stealth about it.

Researchers from California’s Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program recently examined the advertising of menthol and Newport-brand cigarettes in the state. They found a much greater prevalence of cigarette advertising in areas near high schools with significant populations of African American students.

“There is a systematic targeting (of disadvantaged communities) by the tobacco industry, which is an extraordinary public health problem,” said Lisa Henriksen of the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who presented the research at a legislative briefing in Sacramento last week. “The addition of menthol to cigarettes makes it easier to smoke and more difficult to quit.”

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Surreal, weirdly beautiful photo of planetary destruction seen from space

Some things that look awful up close can look kind of beautiful from space. Like this enormous open-pit copper mine in northern Chile.

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Happy Earth Day, Mitt!

Mitt RomneyMitt Romney, brownwasher in chief. (Photo by Gage Skidmore.)

Mitt Romney might be the country's No. 1 brownwasher. While corporate America tries to paint itself as greener than it really is, corporate America's presumptive candidate tries to paint himself as browner than he really is -- or at least was.

We aren't fooled. Sure, he mocks efficient cars, extols the virtues of coal, and argues that we should be drill-baby-drilling our way to lower gas prices. Yes, he bashes the EPA and has packed his staff with EPA haters. OK, he wants to keep handing out billions to Big Oil and rubber-stamp the Keystone XL pipeline.

But if you chip away at that brown paint, there's a layer of green underneath. (As for what's beneath that layer, and then the one below that, who knows?) When he was governor of Massachusetts, Romney was about as green as Republicans get (if you don't count the now-disgraced Governator, and many Republicans don't). Check out these eco-friendly stances from Romney's past:

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Super-polluted city tries to clean itself with smog-eating paint

Manila is one of the world's five dirtiest cities, but graffiti? That's not a problem. It's not that people don't paint on the walls in the hyper-polluted Philippines capital, because they do. But they do it with a paint that actually eats smog out of the air.

Read more: Cities, Pollution