The New Republic

  ...and getting rousted by the police, no less. Who says children need to be sheltered from life's unhappier realities? Some folks at Topless Robot have compiled 17 of the least obviously kid-friendly Playmobil sets, including hazmat team, suicide responders, bunny hunter, and crippling bike accident victim. --Christopher Orr

One of the major obstacles preventing many homeowners from installing solar panels on their roofs is, well, it's expensive. At least in the short term. True, the panels may pay for themselves over the course of several years, especially if they reduce the amount of electricity you need to buy from the utility (or, much rarer, if you can sell excess power back to the grid). But the upfront costs can be formidable for many people.

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“Pen and Parchment: Drawing in the Middle Ages,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, through August 23, 2009.Melanie Holcomb, Pen and Parchment: Drawing in the Middle Ages, Yale University Press, 2009“Pen and Parchment: Drawing in the Middle Ages” is the most original museum show in this country since 2002’s “Tapestry in the Renaissance: Art and Magnificence.” These audacious exhibitions turn scholarly probity into artistic revelation; it speaks volumes about the curatorial esprit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that this great institution has been responsible for both events.

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To be honest, I've never been terribly interested in the long-running pseudo-debate over whether global warming "stopped" in 1998. If you don't know what I'm talking about, here's the dime version: 1998 was an exceptionally hot El Ni

In this week's New Scientist, Bijal Trivedi discovers that those calorie labels on food packages are lies, all lies. The typical method used to estimate the caloric content dates back to the 19th century and basically involves burning chunks of food to see how much energy it releases. The problem is that this doesn't account for the energy you spend actually digesting the food, which, it turns out, can be a significant factor. For protein- and fiber-heavy foods in particular, people actually extract anywhere from 5 to 25 percent fewer calories than advertised on the label.

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Over at Solve Climate, Stacy Morford reports that MoveOn.org is casting Sarah Palin as a boogeyman in their clean-energy ads. The kicker: "Tell Congress, don’t side with Sarah Palin, stand up for our clean energy future." Is this tactically wise? I have no idea, though there's an obvious logic to linking obstruction on climate action to an unpopular figure. Still, though, if everyone agreed to ignore her, wouldn't she just go away? --Bradford Plumer

Here's an important scoop from InsideEPA. The Obama administration is mulling an executive order that would require all federal agencies to start reducing their greenhouse-gas emissions 20 percent by 2020—without waiting for congressional legislation.

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David Frum continues to be an invaluable, and lonely, voice of reason in the midst of the conservative crackup. Here he is offering some perspective on the bitter declinism sweeping the GOP: The apocalyptic despair heard from today’s conservatives is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong as a description of reality, wrong politically, wrong psychologically, wrong morally.... In 1975, the federal government set the price of every airline ticket, every ton of rail freight, every cubic foot of natural gas and every barrel of oil.

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In the post below, I mentioned that plug-in electric vehicles could provide a form of energy storage, since, in theory, they'd charge up during the night, when power plants are underutilized. In 2007, one DOE study found that our current grid had enough nighttime capacity to charge up to 180 million plug-in hybrids, without the need for a single new power plant. Sounds good, right? But a reader points out that it's actually more complicated than that, and points to a more recent 2008 study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Basically, it all depends on what time people charge their cars.

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Pre-americana

My Inbox reports: Media Advisory Renowned writer/director Nora Ephron will donate objects from the set of her latest Columbia Pictures film “Julie & Julia” to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The motion picture is based in part on famed chef Julia Child’s life and features a reproduction of her kitchen, which is on display at the museum. Now I certainly hope that Julie & Julia--which opens August 7 and I have not yet seen--attracts large audiences, wins a fistful of awards, and becomes a beloved, or even merely well-remembered, addition to American cinema.

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