Smog, Suburbs and Stereotypes: What's Ruining Our Cities This Week

Choking pollution sweeps through China, new development could eradicate Mexico's emerging wine industry, and Yahoo can tell you everything that's wrong with where you live (congratulations, Memphis, you're apparently a hellhole). All this and more is What's Ruining Our Cities.

Smog is ruining Shanghai

I know, a smog alert in China is nothing new. However, there's reason to be alarmed about today's report that Shanghai is experiencing the highest levels of toxic particles—25 micrograms—since the city began keeping track last December. Shanghai's on the coast and is usually kept clear by offshore breezes. Now, however, it seems that China's pollution problem is so bad that Shanghai's being subjected to the same deplorable conditions as inland cities (one of which, Harbin, saw a terrifying 1,000 micrograms in October). The city is shrouded in a "yellow haze," as even government vehicles have been pulled off the road and public sporting events have been canceled. [The Globe and Mail]

Development is ruining Baja, Mexico

Most people don't even know there's a wine-growing region in Northwestern Mexico, and it might be destroyed before they get to see it. A new "closed door" decision now permits urban and suburban development—in some cases up to 10 times the housing density—in a rural, agricultural area in Baja sometimes described as Mexico's Napa Valley. Scientists say the fragile environment will not be able to support the new development, and the conditions for growing grapes will be eradicated. "It will destroy everything," said winemaker Hugo D'Acosta. "We can put up plastic grapes to make it look pretty, but that's it." [New York Times]

Yahoo's autocomplete knows what's ruining your city

Wouldn't it be awesome if you could just look at a map and know what kind of civic malaise was affecting any given metropolis? Well, now you can! Keir Clarke built an Autocomplete Map in Google Maps that replaces state and city names with Yahoo search suggestions, and these almost always translate to geo-located insults. Some are expected—"Washington is Hollywood for ugly people," "Seattle is depressing," "New York is killing me"—but some are unique and, dare I say, inspired: "Chicago is so two years ago," "Minneapolis is the 'new gay,'" and "Pittsburgh is the new Portland." [Atlantic Cities]

And an update from previous city-ruiners: Stock up on your hot sauce. The Sriracha factory that was sickening Southern California? It's been ordered to partially shut down.

A couple in protective masks walk under haze in Shanghai, China, AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko