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Amber Cortes' Posts


People: Stop getting your panties in a wad about “fake” charity clothing bins

Used clothing bins -- those metal boxes where people drop their unwanted or used shirts, jackets, jeans, belts, and the occasional human skull -- sure are making people mad these days.

The problem is in the sales pitch: Some of the sketchier bins on street corners and in parking lots have “DONATION” stenciled on the side. As a result, people think that their old spandex jeggings, those Uggs from last season, and the hot pink Juicy Couture sweatpants that they only wore once are going to a person in need. In fact, those “donations” are going to textile recyclers who are making billions selling the clothes to companies overseas that grind the clothes into material for industrial uses.

While it isn't exactly a news flash that most of the clothes from these bins go to for-profit companies, a recent New York Times article condemned the boxes as public nuisances, calling them magnets for graffiti and crime, and fire hazards. The city of New York has upped its efforts to haul away the bins. One New York state assemblyman has made getting rid of them his cause celebre, and the bins have been causing turf wars in other states.

Read more: Living


These amazing animated maps show cities on the move

It knows when you are sleeping. It knows when you're awake. It knows if you've been driving, biking, or walking, and it records it, for data's sake.

Human is an app that tracks activity with the goal of getting users to exercise at least 30 minutes a day. It uses the M7 motion co-processor, a handy little iPhone microchip with gyroscope, compass, and accelerometer sensors, to track and record your every move -- even while your phone is asleep.

Creepy? Maybe a little. But what with the NSA so busy looking at pictures of you in your underwear, maybe a device that tracks how you get around on a daily basis isn't all that bad.

This month, Human's parent company released a series of neat-o visualizations of walking, biking, running, and driving patterns for 30 cities around the world. Check out the video here:


Mailed it

This rogue bicycle pony express delivered mail in 1894

If any of the cyclists who participated in the great bicycle messenger mail route were still alive to tell the tale, it would make the ultimate "when I was your age story."

Picture this: San Francisco, 1894. The Pullman rail strike in Illinois cuts off all rail service west of Detroit, leaving California train-less and thus, mail-less. One "enterprising citizen" and bicycle salesman Arthur C. Banta decides to create a fixie chain gang relay along a 210-mile stretch from San Francisco to California's Central Valley with eight primary riders. He charges $0.25 for stamps, 10 times the price of standard mail at the time.

I can just hear the conversation now:

Read more: Living


With Dov Charney gone, these are the only clothes made by dangerous animals

Zoo Jeans

When supporters of the Kamine Zoo in Hitachi, Japan, needed to raise money for renovations, they passed on the usual fundraising routes and instead took a leap into the world of high fashion. Rather than recruiting the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier, they decided to go in-house with their design process. Specifically: the lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!) department. Tires and rubber balls were wrapped in sheets of denim before being tossed them to the predators. The resulting Zoo Jeans are "the only jeans on earth designed by dangerous animals," the volunteer group claims. Zoo Jeans It sure looks like these animals don't mind adding their creative flair and masticatory …

Read more: Living


Heartland Institute Gets A Bad Rap

This climate-denying rapper is about as dope as you’d expect

For the past nine years, climate deniers from all over the world have gathered for the International Conference on Climate Change, brought to you by the Heartland Institute (the same folks who deny that tobacco causes lung cancer).

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


Join us for a bumpy ride through Uber’s myriad challenges

Lately, app-based ridesharing company Uber has had a maze of issues to work through. Legal challenges from the taxi industry, disgruntled drivers looking to unionize, and protests in Europe and the U.S. are taking the company, recently valued at $18.2 billion, for a rough ride.

Will Uber make it through the maze of problems it faces from taxi companies and its own drivers? The company has several fine lines to walk drive.


Gay rights activists ally with greens in the climate fight

Ben Evans

They're here, they're queer, and they're ready to roll up their sleeves and fight the good fight against climate change. Queers for the Climate is a new activist group focused on "saving the straights" (and the planet) from imminent environmental ruin.

How? By applying some of their own smart strategies that helped win over half the country in the battle for LGBT marriage equality and civil rights.

We sat down with Joseph Huff-Hannon, one the founders of Queers for the Climate, to talk about why we need to save the straights, and how the climate justice movement can take a page out of LGBT community activism.


The oil boom in one slick infographic

Oil, oil everywhere! It’s coming … by sea, by rail, and by pipeline. Over the past five years, domestic oil production has jumped by 50 percent. The boom adds up to a mess of oil -- and oil data. Click on this interactive infographic to see how much of the black stuff has been flowing domestically, and why the Northwest may be in for a crude awakening:

Data and icons from the ForestEthics report “Off The Rails: The Fossil Fuel Takeover of the Pacific Northwest.”

The oil and gas boom in places like Texas and North Dakota caused the crude-by-rail industry to erupt almost overnight: In 2008, there were only 9,500 railcars of oil transported in the U.S., but last year there were an estimated 400,000 -- an increase of 4,117 percent in just six years, according to a new report by ForestEthics.

The nascent oil-by-rail industry is a hot mess: Different companies own the oil, railway tracks, and railcars, and so far regulations haven’t kept pace with the growth. Additionally, oil companies are trying to veil the railcar movements in secrecy -- but with mixed results. Citizen watchdog projects like Sightline’s “Oil Trainspotting in the Northwest” ask Pacific Northwest residents to track oil trains rolling through their communities with video cameras and smartphones.


Ship to be square

This pop-up solar station looks like Optimus Prime, goes anywhere, and has wifi

Ecos PowerCube

If there's anything your average irony-loving, trucker-cap-wearing hipster can't get enough of these days, it's pop-up shops. Mobile couture boutiques, indie-label record store shopping pods, artisanal mac-and-cheese food trucks — you name it. But now Florida-based tech company Ecosphere Technologies has taken the pop-up concept and attached it to something even more powerful than tacos: the sun.

The Ecos Powercube sounds like a video game console but is actually a fully functioning solar-powered energy station. The company describes it as "the world's largest mobile solar-powered generator." The technology is housed in shipping containers, so the Ecos Powercube can be brought in by boat, rail, or plane and dropped (gently) anywhere in the world for disaster relief, refugee situations, and military operations that sometimes cause refugee situations.


Beekeepers are breeding a race of superbees at the Seattle airport

FlightPath_Rod Hatfield
Rod Hatfield

It's a sunny June day and I'm standing in a lovely meadow. Birds are singing, flowers are in bloom, and the temptation to lay out a blanket and have a picnic is strong. In fact, if not for the occasional roar of a 747 overhead, you would never guess that you were right next to one of the busiest airports in the country.

Seattle's Sea-Tac Airport boasts up to 855 takeoffs and landings a day. But just a few hundred feet away, thousands of teeny-tiny takeoffs and landings are also happening on a strip the size of a ruler.

Meet the superbees of Sea-Tac.

It's pretty clear by now that bees are in peril: Threatened by colony collapse disorder, their long-term survival is in jeopardy. So the Port of Seattle has joined forces with local nonprofit Common Acre to establish Flight Path, a project that will turn the unused green spaces on the south end of Sea-Tac into native pollinator habitat -- and in the process, produce a breed of bees that will be better suited for survival in the coming years.

Read more: Food