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New July 2013

This Temperature Map of the United States Is Mesmerizing

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A strengthening low pressure system over South Dakota this afternoon is producing a pretty striking temperature gradient across the northern Plains. The system is causing blizzard conditions over much of the Dakotas with temperatures as low as 10°F, while just a few dozen miles away, the town of Shenandoah, Iowa is sitting at a comfortable 79°F. Read more…

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Saturday Night Live Recap: Louis C.K. Is a Glorious Weirdo

If you want to see the every-schlub persona Louis C.K. has perfected, watch his Saturday Night Live monologue. Twice now, he’s turned his opening salvo into a 10-minute stand-up set that foretells where his new hour is heading. (This time: toward children’s plays, the plight of women, and mankind’s complicated … More »

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This Texas man is fighting the drought one tank of rainwater at a time

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How do you get to be the mayor of Tank Town? Practice, practice, practice! Or else, wait. I’m confused. Richard Heinichen became the mayor of Tank Town by building one rainwater storage tank in central Texas in 1994. Back then you could still get groundwater from a well, but apparently it smelled gross. He started out as a rainwater evangelist for the supplemental, sulfur-free benefits, but ended up as deus ex machina during Texas’ crippling droughts. Heinichen helped neighbors build their own rainwater tanks at first, then decided to turn the whole thing into a business. He built 16 tanks on his own property and sold some 1,300 others. He consults with hundreds of people a year about installing their own rainwater tanks. (Perplexingly, he’s also started bottling and selling his rainwater, Cloud Juice, but we hope he is at least using recycled bottles.) Now, during the worst drought in decades, Heinichen’s hometown of Dripping Springs, Texas, is running severely short on drips. This video fills in the details, with whimsy added in the form of charming water tank paintjobs and a soundtrack straight out of a Noah Baumbach movie. Heinichen points out that a single gravity-fed tank could support two people for almost a year. If the drought lasts longer than that? Store more water. Long live Tank Town. Filed under: Article, Climate & Energy, Living

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This floating electric amphicar could save you from the next tsunami

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It’s a car! It’s a boat! It’s an electric-powered vehicle that bobs on the water like a jetski! The Japanese-developed Fomm Concept One uses a water jet generator to propel through water, and has a motorcycle-style handlebar to accelerate and brake. And get this: Its wheels are lightweight, buoyant, and they can operate like fins when in the water. Pretty neat, eh? Before you take the plunge and pack up the family for a picnic in the lake, remember that this amphicar isn’t meant just for fun. It was designed by a Japanese company to help rescue people from flooding and tsunamis and will only be sold in Thailand, followed by a larger rollout in Southeast Asia. The tiny, 1,000-pound car can only drive about 62 miles before it needs to be recharged, and can only handle one disaster at a time before it needs to be maintained again. The concept for the car was born after Fomm President Hideo Tsurumaki saw the devastation that the 2011 tsunami caused his home province, Shizuoka Prefecture. In Southeast Asia, where 138 million people live in coastal areas prone to flooding and powerful downpours, this electric car could help drivers negotiate impassable roads and flooding. And the Fomm Concept One will have its work cut out for it, since global warming is predicted to hit Asia the hardest, bringing along plenty more floods and tsunamis. According to the company, mass production of the Fomm Concept One will begin in 2015. Take a quick tour of the prototype before it hits the water like Alan Jackson on water skis: Filed under: Article, Business & Technology, Living

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Obama’s new gaseous release: A strategy to cut back on methane

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The White House released its strategy to cut methane emissions this morning — President Obama’s latest sashay around Congress to pursue climate action (as part of the plan he announced in June). Methane isn’t the most ubiquitous of greenhouse gases (that’d be good ‘ol CO2), but it is a potent one: The same amount of methane as CO2 has 20 times the impact in terms of future global warming over a 100-year period. While methane emissions have decreased by 11 percent since 1990, we’re still not in good shape: 50 percent more methane is leaking from oil and gas sites than previously thought and, without action, methane emissions are expected to increase through 2030 – mostly thanks to fracking. So far the oil and gas industry has balked at the idea of regulating its methane leaks, saying that it might slow production down (we’ve all heard it before, but, man, frack you!). Obama’s plan looks at culling methane emissions from four big sources: landfills (methane gets released when all of our biodegradable trash breaks down), leaks from oil and natural gas production, coal mining, and cow farts. The report details how the White House will delegate government agencies to come up with and enforce better standards, i.e. the EPA will manage landfills while the Department of the Interior will handle methane leaks on public lands. It also focuses on ways to capture methane to reuse it for clean energy, such as biogas systems, which can convert cattle waste into fuel. So while we’re not going to replace our cows with less-farty kangaroos, it at least offers options for putting all those bovine leavings to good use. All of these steps are pretty minor in the face of battling climate change, but the plan overall does have people excited. “Curbing methane is … a big step in the right direction,” David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at NRDC, said in a recent press release. And from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse: “As climate change continues to harm American communities from the Heartland to the coasts, we must use every tool at our disposal to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing it … I applaud the President for his ongoing commitment to public health and the environment.”Filed under: Article, Climate & Energy

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He may talk big on deforestation, but it turns out Ahnold is the tree terminator

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Global WitnessI’ll be bahk, bromeliads.Hasta la vista, trees! If you thought it was bad when Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor, just wait til you hear what’s happened now that he’s an honorary U.S. Forest Service ranger. An investigation by Global Witness alleges that his investments have funded illegal rainforest logging, according to the Guardian: The former governor and climate champion is a part owner of an investment company, Dimensional Fund Advisers, with significant holdings in tropical forestry companies. A number of those forestry companies were implicated in highly destructive and illegal logging which has destroyed rainforest and critical orangutan habitat in Borneo, and fuelled conflict and arms trafficking in Liberia, the investigators from Global Witness said. The Terminator had roughly a 5 percent stake in DFA’s investment funds. He’s invested no less than $1 million in the firm, according to disclosure forms the Guardian dug up. (We can think of a better home for your millions, Ahnold! And we promise not to kill any orangutans.) It gets worse: In the run-up to the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009, [Schwarzenegger] joined regional leaders from Indonesia and Brazil urging Barack Obama and other leaders to help developing countries stop deforestation. Aw shit. Nothing like some juicy hypocrisy for your Friday! To be truly baffled, watch Global Witness’ bizarre Arnold animation, via Salon: Filed under: Living

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The Real Housewives of New York City Recap: Here’s Mud in Your Eye

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I wish I could tell you that last night’s episode of Real Screech Harpies of Scylla and Charybdis was about something profound like mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, or Tom and Jerry. It was not. It was mostly about some stylish woman who didn’t want to crawl around in … More »

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In pictures: Devastated by mudslide, Washington town digs out

Tuesday’s rain turned the mud covering Oso, Wash. into a virtual quicksand, placing further strain on rescue efforts

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America, Inc. at it’s Finest

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Chocolate Artisan Truffles by Just Chocolate

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New July 2013