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Grist List: Look what we found.


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You know you want to knit a sweater for a penguin

Now is the time for all good knitters to come to the aid of some penguins. The New Zealand oil spill has left the little guys in need of some warmth and protection, and a Kiwi yarn store has posted patterns for how to knit "penguin jumpers" and instructions on where to send them.  This is not the first time there's been a call out for penguin sweaters, and the response in the past has been disproportionate. It's a genuine request -- the woolens keep oil-soaked birds warm until they're well enough to be cleaned, and prevent them from nibbling …

Read more: Animals

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New GE factory will spit out a solar panel every 10 seconds

China makes a lot of solar panels, but so does America. Or at least, it will, once GE's new thin-film panel factory opens in Colorado. The factory marks GE's new, large bet on solar, and states across the country competed to have the factory sited within their borders. Colorado had an empty factory that fit the bill and will snatch up a few hundred jobs as a result. The factory itself will open next year, at which point it will start spitting out a solar panel every 10 seconds. The panels will be more efficient than most thin-film models, GE …

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Critical List: Judge rules on polar bears’ status; Cain’s wrong on wind and solar

A new ruling on the polar bear's status as a threatened species gives the Obama administration the power to decide the species' fate. Amtrak carried more passengers last year than ever before. The E.U. is wondering whether it should just give up its GHG reduction plans since no one else in the world seems be doing their part to decrease emissions. Congress has been yelling that the EPA wants to crack down on farm dust, and apparently the EPA can’t take it anymore. The agency announced that it won't tighten regulations on particulate matter, otherwise known as "crap in the …

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Japanese companies turn bras into fuel

The whole "feminists burn their bras" thing is kind of a canard, but now you can do it for real and for an equally good cause. Japanese lingerie manufacturers are collecting bras and recycling them into solid fuel. It's been pretty successful, too: Triumph has collected more than 200,000 bras since it began the program in 2009 and turned them into 14 tons of [refuse paper and plastic] fuel. Wacoal has collected more than 179,200 bras and produced 17.9 tons of the fuel. Apparently Japanese women are powerfully bashful about the task of disposing of worn-out underclothes -- which makes …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Is this the most anti-environment House of Representatives ever?

At the end of last week, the House voted to let states deal with coal ash, a toxic byproduct of mining, the same way they deal with municipal garbage. The Associated Press called this: the latest [vote] of several passed by the Republican-controlled House that would shift authority from the Environmental Protection Agency and reduce regulations Republicans say are burdensome, hamper economic growth and cost jobs. That doesn't even begin to do justice to the attacks that Congress has mounted on the environment and the people who live in it (oh, hey, that's us!). Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman's Energy and Commerce …

Read more: Politics

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Giant Bicycles strikes back at stupid GM ad

GM's ad about how embarrassing it is to ride a bike? Dumb. Giant Bicycles' parody response? Classy! Also pretty amusing. Click to embiggen, but the main text reads thus: Reality does suck. Luckily bicycles don't... In fact it's the best thing you can do to save hundreds...even thousands of dollars a year. It doesn't matter if you're in college, young, or old. The only thing you have to lose is some weight..and the burden of fuel prices. Okay, it's not the best-punctuated thing I've ever read (what's ".."?), but that comparison between the fuel costs of a bike and a …

Read more: Biking, Cities

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Republican candidate Herman Cain has extensive Koch ties

The Koch brothers are everywhere, and it turns out that Herman Cain, the current Republican front-runner with the simple 9-9-9 tax plan, has been extensively wrapped in the slimy arms of the Kochtopus. Cain's 9-9-9 plan, for instance, didn't come from Sim City (not directly at least). Instead, a businessman who served on the board of the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity helped him come up with it. Cain’s campaign manager and members of his staff have also worked for AFP in the past. His campaign's law firm is representing AFP in an unrelated matter. Cain himself worked with AFP …

Read more: Politics

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The world's first vertical forest is under construction in Milan

We've pretty much established that trees are awesome -- they make you smart, improve your home's value, filter pollution, provide shade, and produce oxygen. But even in a city that prioritizes green spaces, surface area is at a premium. How do you provide enough trees while still living densely? Milan, Italy, has a creative answer: a forest in the form of a skyscraper. The Bosco Verticale takes the same attitude towards green space that highrises take towards living: You can fit more into a smaller footprint if you build up instead of out. It's an apartment building, but each apartment …

Read more: Cities, Green Home, Living

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Radioactive fallout detected in Tokyo

Radiation has a sneaky way of spreading, and in Tokyo, citizens have identified 20 sites contaminated by radioactive cesium from the Fukushima meltdown. The government wasn't planning on testing in Tokyo, but citizens and a nuclear research center started their own investigation and came up with positive results. Here's the response the city's head of health and safety gave the New York Times about the results: "Nobody stands in one spot all day…And nobody eats dirt." Also, radioactive material probably fell on concrete and got washed away! Nothing to worry about! Not particularly reassuring, especially given the Japanese government's record …

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Climate change is making plants and insects shrink

Here's a novel weight loss tip: Live on a planet whose global warming trend is so severe that you need to shrink in order to adapt. Oh, and it helps to be an insect, spider, plant, or marine creature. (Or a sheep. Evidently we already knew sheep were shrinking.) If you can manage that, you could be on your way to losing up to 22 percent of your body size, just from climate change! That's the finding of biology professor David Bickford, who found that increasing temperatures and limited water have made a number of plants and critters shrink in …