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Rebecca Taylor
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New July 2013

Oil workers and Jewish grandmas driving American metropolitan growth


Looking for the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the United States? Follow the fracking – or, alternatively, search for the top-rated golf club brunches on Yelp. The most recent U.S. census data, measuring urban growth between July 1, 2012 and July 1, 2013, showed that oil boomtowns and Southern retirement communities now get to sit at the popular table. The irony here, of course, is that there were never more unlikely candidates for said table than The Villages, Fla., or Fargo, N.D. This list paints a pretty bizarre picture of America’s future, but at least it’s interesting. A couple of cities on this list – Austin, for example – actually seem like fun places to live for young people, but what’s most striking is that with the exception of The Villages, all of the top spots are filled by oil towns. That’s no coincidence. Last July, the New York Times published a study examining social mobility in metro areas across the United States. The places of greatest economic opportunity, according to the results, were concentrated in oil-rich regions: North Dakota, eastern Montana, western Texas. Here’s a list of the top 10 fastest-growing metro areas, with the most likely reasons for their growth: 1. The Villages, Fla. – 5.2 percent Awkwardly named The Villages is literally just a retirement community in the dead center of Florida, about an hour northwest of Orlando. No one under the age of 65 is moving there. 2 & 3. Odessa and Midland, Texas – tied at 3.3 percent Odessa and Midland, about 20 miles apart, lie on the oil-rich Permian Basin in western Texas, which is expected to produce 1.41 million barrels this month. Both towns have experienced housing shortages in recent years due to an oil boom in the region. 4 & 5. Fargo and Bismarck, N.D. – tied at 3.1 percent Fargo and Bismarck have both seen unprecedented growth due to workers flocking to high-paying jobs on the Bakken shale. This influx — and its attendant problems, including high real-estate prices, increased crime rates, and a really tough dating scene – have been well-documented. 6. Casper, Wyo. – 2.9 percent Casper, nicknamed The Oil City, is bringing recent high school grads to work in the region’s oil fields in droves. A city full of 18-year-olds with tens of thousands of dollars in disposable income? Pretty sick, brah! 7. Myrtle Beach, S.C. – 2.7 percent It turns out everyone you’ve ever met wearing a Myrtle Beach sweatshirt is finally making their sartorially expressed dreams a reality and moving to Myrtle Beach. There is no other explanation. 8. Austin, Texas – 2.6 percent Have you ever been to Austin? There is pretty much nowhere within the city limits that you can’t get a delicious taco. That’s just part of the reason that 110 people move to Austin each day – the city’s economy expanded by 5.9 percent last year, more than twice the growth rate for the national economy. 9. Daphne, Ala. – 2.6 percent Fairhope, in the Daphne metro area on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, was founded as an experimental utopian society by a group of rare Iowan socialists, and continues to pride itself on being a weird little resort town. Fairhope’s current mayor started out as the city’s horticulturist, and the town is committed to being bike- and pedestrian-friendly. This one doesn’t sound so bad, y’all. 10. Cape Coral, Fla. – 2.5 percent In 2012, Forbes named Cape Coral among its 25 top places to retire in the U.S. It seems that the publication’s target audience took that recommendation to heart.Filed under: Cities, Climate & Energy, Living

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America’s worst food deserts: Map-lovers edition


Pablo PecoraKhongoryn Els-Gobi Desert in Mongolia. Both a literal and food desert.Food deserts are officially defined as low-income neighborhoods far away (a mile or more) from grocery stores. But distance, as the crow flies, isn’t that relevant, since only a few mutants and drone pilots navigate their cities that way. What actually matters is the time it takes to walk to the grocery store. The website Walk Score has the data to account for the hills and railroads and warehouses that separate you from food, and it has used that information to rank U.S. cities by food access. Compare the difference between New York, where 72 percent of people live just five minutes away from a grocery store … Click for the interactive map.… and Tuscon, where only 6 percent of the population has such easy access: Click for the interactive map.Seattle is somewhere in between: Click for interactive map.City planners already use the Walk Score data to find their food deserts. (For more on why food deserts exist, and how people are addressing the problem, check this out.) You can play with the interactive maps for the top- and bottom-ranked cities here. If your city isn’t there, you can always zoom right in on your house (and prove that you live in a pizza desert) at Walk Score’s main site. Here’s the complete ranking of big U.S. cities by percentage of residents within a five-minute walk to food access: New York 72 percent San Francisco 59 percent Philadelphia 57 percent Miami 49 percent Oakland 49 percent Boston 45 percent Washington, D.C. 41 percent Chicago 41 percent Baltimore 41 percent Long Beach 41 percent Los Angeles 36 percent Seattle 31 percent Portland 29 percent Milwaukee 29 percent Minneapolis 29 percent Cleveland 25 percent San Diego 21 percent Detroit 19 percent San Jose 17 percent Denver 17 percent Fresno 17 percent Houston 15 percent Sacramento 15 percent Atlanta 15 percent Columbus 14 percent Dallas 13 percent Bakersfield 13 percent Memphis 11 percent Austin 10 percent Las Vegas 10 percent Phoenix 9 percent San Antonio 9 percent Nashville-Davidson 9 percent Louisville-Jefferson 9 percent Jacksonville 8 percent Fort Worth 8 percent El Paso 8 percent Arlington 8 percent Virginia Beach 7 percent Omaha 7 percent Tulsa 7 percent Albuquerque 7 percent Charlotte 6 percent Tucson 6 percent Kansas City 6 percent Mesa 6 percent Colorado Springs 6 percent Raleigh 6 percent Oklahoma City 5 percent Indianapolis 5 percent Wichita 5 percent Filed under: Article, Food

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Here’s a shorebird’s-eye view of the Galveston oil spill


When an oil barge collided with a container ship on Saturday in Galveston, Texas, as many as 168,000 gallons of fuel were spilled into the estuary, threatening wildlife and shutting down the busy port for days. Yadda yadda. Different spill, same old spill news. Here’s a slightly different view than you might be used to, from Project Survival Media. Turns out that oil is less beautifully troubling, and more palpably gross, from the shorebird’s-eye view, where it churns in the waves like salad dressing gone wrong. That lumpy goodness is probably IFO-380, or what’s left after all the gas and diesel and kerosene have been taken out of crude oil. “It’s commonly referred to as bottom of the barrel stuff,” as Greg Pollack, a local oil spill prevention commissioner, told the Galveston Daily News. It usually floats near the surface, which is good for cleaning crews, but sometimes sinks when it gets close enough to shore to start picking up sediment. Unlike crude oil — which is what spilled the last time this area got slicked, by Deepwater Horizon in 2010 — this heavy fuel oil won’t evaporate, so leftovers may circulate far and wide. Texas officials released a map of the spill’s probable extent on Wednesday. (Just to be clear, the “safety zones” are the ones where you’re NOT safe from getting oiled.) KHOUFiled under: Article, Business & Technology, Climate & Energy

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Why do we work so hard? Cadillac and Ford have very different answers

In an ad that aired during the Super Bowl, Cadillac shared its version of America and electric car drivers by having actor Neal McDonough ask, “Why do we work so hard when other countries take August off?” For those shouting about the crumbling middle class, stagnant wages, and the death of unions (shh, Kevin Drum!), here’s the real answer: Stuff. Beautiful, beautiful stuff. But if you can take a break from gently cradling and kissing all of your precious stuff instead of the children you never get to see, you’ll want to see Ford’s wonderful response to it. As a refresher, here’s that one guy from TV selling Cadillac’s vision: Now watch Detroit Dirt founder Pashon Murray give her version of the American dream: So which America do you believe in? The one where stodgy rich white dudes known for playing psychopaths on TV fill the emotional void with underused swimming pools or the one where awesome urban farmers rebuild Detroit with their bare hands? We don’t have the desire or dough to trade in our bus passes and walking shoes for electric cars, but in this case we’re going with Ford. N’est-ce pas, Pashon? Indeed. h/t Stacy MitchellFiled under: Article, Business & Technology, Living

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Mexican gangs learn that lime pays (also crime)


“I could just kill for a margarita right now,” you sigh, apparently ignorant of the fact that it is March, and the consumption of an iced beverage is nothing short of an act of insanity. It’s also probably the middle of the workday, so that in itself should be cause for concern in most circles. You’re also probably unaware that someone may have actually killed – as in, committed murder – for the limes that go in your hypothetical margarita. Cartels are invading the Mexican citrus trade, hijacking trucks, and forcibly taking over farms to sell the now-valuable fruit. Another day, another ring of organized criminals making the transition from eight balls to tasty treats! NPR reports that unprecedented rainfall in the states of Michoacán, Guerrero, and Veracruz and a widespread bacterial infection in the state of Colima have resulted in minimal lime yields this year. As a result, farmers can charge a high price for their harvest, no matter the quality. The demand for delicious citrus fruit has not escaped the attention of former Mexican drug lords. Canadian CBC News reports that the Knights Templar (Caballeros Templarios) cartel, an offshoot of the defunct but infamously brutal La Familia Michoacana, has been forcing farmers in the Tierra Caliente region to pay “protection taxes” to the cartel, which drive up lime prices even further. In some cases, the Knights Templar will seize citrus farms and take over production, sometimes killing farmers in the process. And according to NPR, lime producers are starting to hire security details to protect shipments of limes from organized hijackers at the U.S.-Mexico border. The Knights Templar have been active in the region for years preceding this lime crisis, but it’s only provided further opportunity for them to profit. Organized crime in the Tierra Caliente region, which includes parts of Michoacán and Guerrero, has wreaked havoc on its agriculture. A recent evaluation by the National Chamber of Business, Services, and Tourism of Apatzingán, a central city in the Tierra Caliente valley, showed that the cost of restoring the local citrus farming industry alone would exceed $130 million (link in Spanish). Raúl Millan of Vision Import Group expressed surprise to NPR that customers are still buying up limes at prices that are double or triple what they normally are. Have you ever tried to separate the average American from her guac, Raúl? Come on. You know better.Filed under: Business & Technology, Food, Living

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These beauty pageant contestants are chickens


Ernest GohSquawk like an Egyptian.If you think Toddlers and Tiaras is weird, replace Honey Boo-Boo with a chicken and things get even stranger. Photographer Ernest Goh was in Malaysia for a project when he heard about Ayam Seramas, ornamental chickens bred solely for aesthetics. In Malaysia, the birds are shown off at chicken beauty pageants roughly once a week, Goh says. (Sounds like a blend of cockfight and cat show.) His strange, vibrant photos from the pageants became a book – called Cocks, of course. Ernest Goh Chicken pageant judges look for feather coloration, combs, and how well the chickens strut, he says. And how! Check out some major model attitude at 2:14: Goh says in the video that the project illuminated how we anthropomorphize chickens. “I found that, although I’m photographing animals, I’m actually telling stories of us humans,” he says. It makes sense: Chickens and other show animals almost serve as surrogates for their human owners, groomed to be beautiful, majestic, and strong. Ernest GohIt doesn’t sound like the birds are eaten once past their prime, although I’m not sure that would be a worse fate than Botox and Celebrity Rehab. Someone make a Best In Show­-type mockumentary about chicken beauty pageants! Please?! For more chicken action, check out Goh’s prints or find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.Filed under: Living

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New insight into learning maths

Teaching children to use their hands when doing maths is a good way to improve understanding, research suggests.

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Protests near Cairo University leave one dead

Several also wounded at demonstrations sparked by Monday’s death sentences for alleged Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

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Egypt prosecutor refers 919 suspected Islamists to two mass trials

One student killed in protests against the death sentences in earlier trial

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The Geography of Small Talk

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Charles: Stop Bird Trapping

Prince Charles writes to senior Commander of British Forces in Cyprus, asking him to uproot planted avenues of non-native acacia plants which trappers use to attract birds at massive British army base

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Ask Umbra: Are chemicals in my garden hose polluting my veggies?

Send your question to Umbra! Q. I have heard that there is triclosan in new garden hoses. My old hose is spouting leaks everywhere now, but I cannot find any references as to where I can find a chemical-free garden hose. I grow lots of veggies and don’t want our family to be eating toxins. Any idea where I can source one? JacquelineAdelaide, Australia A. Dearest Jacqueline, The ubiquity of chemicals in our daily lives is rather dispiriting, isn’t it? Here you are engaged in the very healthy, sustainable practice of growing fresh veggies for your family, only to learn your innocent-looking garden hose may be showering tonight’s salad with toxins? Good grief. Triclosan, as astute readers will recall, is an antibacterial chemical found in everything from hand soap to toothpaste to pillowcases. The stuff has been linked to endocrine disruption and liver toxicity, and our own FDA issued a call last December requiring soap makers to prove triclosan is safe and effective – or remove it from their products. (They have a year to provide the data.) I wasn’t able to find data proving triclosan leaches out of hoses, but we know the chemical builds up in the environment, and studies have shown some plants take it up from the soil through their roots. So I don’t blame your squeamishness about using a triclosan-laced hose on your string beans. The short answer here is not to purchase a hose labeled as antibacterial. I know, for example, that you can find triclosan in some garden hoses under the brand name Microban. But while we’re talking chemicals and garden hoses, Jacqueline, I’m afraid it gets worse. A recent study by the nonprofit Ecology Center detected lead, BPA, and phthalates in water that had been left sitting in a hose for several days. The lead comes from brass hose fittings, the other nasties from the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) used to form the hose. (That blasted vinyl rears its ugly head yet again!) Lead, of course, we want nowhere near us or especially our kids because of the serious physical and cognitive problems it causes. BPA and phthalates, for their part, contribute more endocrine disruption and suspected damage to the kidneys and liver. Now that I’ve likely completely skeeved you out about your garden hose, I can point you to a better solution: rubber hoses. They’re heavier than their vinyl counterparts, but quite durable and don’t require weird plasticizers and other additives. Here in the States, these can be found from several brands, including Goodyear, Craftsman, Ace, and Swan. Many are available online, and some appear shippable to Australia. Given the transportation costs, though, I’d encourage you to first check with your local hardware and garden shops to see if they carry — or can order — a rubber option. (I also had some luck searching Australian eBay.) Another note, Jacqueline, before you whip out your wallet: A “drinking water safe” hose (often marketed for RVs and boats) is probably lead-free, but it could still be made of PVC and might still contain triclosan, your primary concern. No matter what hose you’re using, it’s a great idea to follow these tips from the Ecology Center: Let the water run for a few seconds when you first turn it on to flush out old water. Store it in the shade, as baking in the hot sun encourages leaching of chemicals. And while I know nothing invokes carefree summer fun quite like a gulp straight from the hose, please, don’t drink the hose water. With chemicals on one hand and bacteria or mildew on the other, you’re better off with another classic summer indulgence: the neighbor kid’s lemonade stand. Splashily, UmbraFiled under: Article, Food, Living

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America, Inc. at it’s Finest

Saks Fifth Avenue
7 For All Mankind, a division of VF Contemporary Brands
Bren-Books.com, Modern first editions and collectible fiction<

bren-books.com, Modern first editions and collectible fiction

US iTunes, App Store, iBookstore, and Mac App Store
J&R Computer/Music World
New July 2013