Category Archives: Science

Puerto Rico Has Full Power Restored

Compliments of NBC

Power has been restored to all of Puerto Rico for the first time since Hurricane Maria struck nearly 11 months ago, officials said Tuesday.

The island’s electric utility announced that crews working in the southern city of Ponce reconnected the last neighborhood that had been offline since the Sept. 20 storm knocked out the U.S. territory’s power grid.

Ponce resident Charlie Colon Nazario told El Nuevo Dia that he was looking forward to no longer having to use a generator to light his house.

“No more lamps, no more candles, no more extension cords,” he said as about two dozen power workers completed the connection to his home.

The Ponce neighborhood was the last to be reconnected to the grid because landslides and rough terrain made it difficult for crews from the electrical authority or contractors to reach the area to make repairs, said Carlos Alvarado, chief of technical operations for the power authority.

Utility crews used a helicopter to replace wooden power poles knocked down in the storm with steel ones that officials hope will do a better job staying up during future storms.

“They will have a more robust system,” Alvardo said.

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Southern California Fire Grows ti Over 10k Acres

By: Ruben Vines and Alene Tchekmedyian of LA Times

Firefighters on Friday continued to battle an 18,000-acre wildfire in the Cleveland National Forest after it spread into Riverside County overnight and forced thousands to evacuate.

The Holy fire has destroyed at least 12 structures, but the U.S. Forest Service said that no additional homes had been lost as the fire spread. The fire remains only 5% contained.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Orange and Riverside counties. A suspected arsonist has been arrested in connection with the fire, which began Monday afternoon.

About 1,000 firefighters are on the scene, and more crews and aircraft continue to pour into the area. Officials are expecting another hot day Friday, with temperatures in the 90s.

“These conditions will increase the likelihood of extreme fire behavior as well as heat illness issues for the firefighters and the public,” fire officials said in a statement Friday.

As flames flickered behind Ana Tran’s McVicker Canyon home, she and her friend rushed to their car and sped past firefighters who were heading toward the blaze. Thick black smoke billowed above homes and cars were blanketed in pinkish fire retardant.

The residents, like many others, made a frantic escape Thursday after winds picked up in Lake Elsinore and pushed the raging Holy fire within feet of homes. More than 20,000 residents were urged to leave their homes.

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Uk And EU Join In Agreement To Block Trump’s Iran Sanction

By: Benjamin Kentish of Independent

The UK has agreed to work with the EU to try to block the impact of Donald Trump‘s new sanctions against Iran.

Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, signed a joint statement with other EU foreign ministers to ensure European companies doing business with Iran will be protected.

The ministers promised to introduce a “blocking statute” to ban European firms from abiding by the US sanctions, which were reimposed by Mr Trump on Monday.

The US president decided to reintroduce the penalties after withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

The European foreign ministers said the lifting of Western sanctions was “essential” to the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which involved Iran agreeing not to pursue development of nuclear weapons.

Mr Hunt signed the statement along with EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and foreign ministers Jean-Yves Le Drian of France and Heiko Maas of Germany.

They said they “deeply regret” Mr Trump’s decision to reimpose sanctions and argued that 11 consecutive reports bythe International Atomic Energy Agency confirm the Iran deal “is working”.

The statement said: “It is a key element of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture, crucial for the security of Europe, the region, and the entire world. We expect Iran to continue to fully implement all its nuclear commitments under the JCPOA.

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Lab Grown Lungs Successfully Implanted In Pigs

By: Kristin Houser of Science Alert

In the US alone, more than 1,400 people are waiting for a lung transplant – there simply aren’t enough donor lungs available to meet the need. Soon, though, patients might have a new source for brand new lungs: the lab.

On Wednesday, researchers from University of Texas Medical Branch published a new paper in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

In it, they detail their latest milestone along the path to creating lab-grown lungs for humans: they can now successfully transplant these bioengineered lungs into pigs.

To grow the lungs, the researchers first created four lung scaffolds. To do this, they removed all of the cells and blood from pig lungs using a mix of sugar and detergent. This left them with just the proteins of each lung – essentially, its skeleton.

Next, they placed each scaffold in a tank containing a special mix of nutrients. They then added cells from recipient pigs’ own lungs to each of the scaffolds and let the lungs grow for 30 days. Finally, they transplanted the four lab-grown lungs into the four recipient pigs.

Within two weeks, the transplanted lungs had already begun to establish the robust networks of blood vessels they need to survive.

During two months of post-transplant observation, the researchers found no signs that the animals’ immune systems had rejected the new lungs. But they next want to study the long-term viability of the organs.

Bioengineered organs are something of a holy grail in transplantation research. Because they are grown from the recipient’s own cells, the body is less likely to reject the organ, and we could grow them in the lab as needed – no more organ shortages.

If all goes as hoped with the pig experiments, the researchers believe they could be just five to 10 years away from being able to create lab-grown lungs to transplant into people in compassionate use circumstances (people with life-threatening conditions and essentially no other treatment options).

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Greece Declares A State Of Emergency

By: Sean Morrison Business Insider

Huge forest fires raging across Greece have killed at least four people and injured dozens more, forcing authorities to seek international assistance as they battle the flames.

A state of emergency was declared in parts of Athens, the country’s capital, as coast guard boats headed out in an attempt to rescue dozens of people trapped on beaches by fire.

Hundreds of firefighters were battling a number of fires across the region and people have been told to leave their homes as authorities desperately try to bring the situation under control.

Gale force winds that frequently changed direction were hampering firefighting efforts on Monday.

Fire Service spokeswoman Stavroula Malliri said Greece had called on the European Union for assistance with aerial and ground support in helping battle the flames.

Health ministry and police authorities said at least nine people were hospitalised from injuries in the fires, with three reported in serious condition in intensive care.

At least for people were seen dead in the street of the village of Mati, east of Athens, that was ravaged by fire on Monday evening, Reuters reported.

Three major hospitals in the city were on standby in case of more fire victims.

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Elon Musk Pledges To Fix Flint Water Crisis

By: Fox

Billionaire Elon Musk has committed to fund efforts to fix Flint homes that still have contaminated water.

The Tesla owner tweeted in response to another user who asked him to respond to people saying there was “NO WAY (he) could help get clean water to Flint”. Musk responded and said “Please consider this a commitment that I will fund fixing the water in any house in Flint that has water contamination above FDA levels. No kidding.”

How serious Musk is with his claim is not known.

The Flint water crisis started in 2014 when city officials switched off of Detroit’s water supply and drew water from the Flint River instead. The goal was to cut costs, but the move triggered a city-wide health crisis with lead contaminated water flowing into people’s homes.

Flint’s water was tainted with the toxin for at least 18 months, as the city tapped the Flint River but didn’t treat the water to reduce corrosion.

The switch to the Flint River yielded smelly discolored tap water, later determined to be responsible for leaching lead from the pipes in people’s homes, poisoning thousands while also leading to dozens of cases of Legionnaires disease. Twelve of those of were fatal.

Twelve people have died and thousands have been poisoned,

City residents were receiving free bottled water from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Back in April, the DEQ said that the water quality “has been restored” and that it tests below federal action levels in lead and copper for nearly 20 years.

In a DEQ release, the state says that tests representing four consecutive six-month monitoring periods shows that 90 percent of the Tier I (high-risk) samples collected are at or below 4 parts per billion, which is well below the federal action level of 15 ppb. Nearly two years of LCR data and thousands of other tests show that Flint’s water is testing the same as or better than similar cities across the state.

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Black Farmers in Memphis Intentionally Sold Fake Seeds

By: WMCaction News

Mid-South farmers filed a lawsuit against a company that they said sold them fake soybean seeds at a convention.

A group of African-American farmers from Louisiana and the Mid-South, say that Stine Seed Company purposefully switched seeds in order to sell black farmers a subpar product at the Mid-South Farm & Gin Show in March 2017.

Despite above average rainfall, experienced black farmers saw limited soybean yield from the Stine seeds during the 2017 harvest.

“Mother nature doesn’t discriminate,” President of Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association Thomas Burrell said. “It doesn’t rain on white farms but not black farms. Insects don’t [only] attack black farmers’ land…why is it then that white farmers are buying Stine seed and their yield is 60, 70, 80, and 100 bushels of soybeans and black farmers who are using the exact same equipment with the exact same land, all of a sudden, your seeds are coming up 5, 6, and 7 bushels?”

After losing millions of dollars, the farmers took the seeds to experts at Mississippi State University to have them tested. They say the tests show the seeds sold to the black farmers were not certified Stine seeds.

The black farmers said the distributor working for Stine Seed Company used labeled certified seed backs–tampering with factory sewn seals, in order to remove the certified seeds. The distributor would then sell the fake certified seeds to black farmers at a high price.

The farmers bought more than $100,000 in soybean seeds from the distributor, plus an additional $100,000 purchase in chemicals.

As for a motive, Burrell said farming is a very competitive industry and unscrupulous people see black farmers as easy prey. He said by hurting those farmers’ bottom line, someone else would be able to swoop in and buy up the land that belongs to black farmers.

“All we have to do is look at here: 80 years ago you had a million black farmers, today you have less than 5,000. These individuals didn’t buy 16 million acres of land, just to let is lay idle. The sons and daughters, the heirs of black farmers want to farm, just like the sons and daughters of white farmers. So we have to acknowledge that racism is the motivation here.”

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Thai Soccer Team Rescued From Cave Enclosure

By: Paul Toohey of Daily Telegraph

The 18-day ordeal, which at times teetered between grief and elation, has ended in extraordinary success, with Thailand celebrating and thanking the world for its prayers and assistance.

“We are all delighted,” rescue chief, Governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn said, hours after the team — who were soon followed by Australian anaesthetist Richard Harris and three Thai Navy SEALs — emerged securely.

“We have done things we never thought we could do. I’m proud we could complete the mission impossible.”

“We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what. All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave,” the Thai Navy SEALs wrote on their Facebook page. “Everyone is safe.”

Australian doctor, Richard Harris, an expert diver, was on the ledge deep within the cave system giving each group of boys final checks before their journeys over the last three days, administering a mild sedative to each of them so none would panic during the swim.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha earlier confirmed that the boys had been given calming medicine “so the children won’t panic, just like we take anti-allergy so we feel OK and are not excited”.

The boys wore wetsuits and full-face masks, meaning they did not need to make any effort breathing as they were swum and guided, relaxed and virtually inert, by pairs of divers through flooded chambers.

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NASA Makes Organic Material On Mars

By: NASA

NASA’s Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface.

The new findings – “tough” organic molecules in three-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface, as well as seasonal variations in the levels of methane in the atmosphere – appear in the June 8 edition of the journal Science.

Organic molecules contain carbon and hydrogen, and also may include oxygen, nitrogen and other elements. While commonly associated with life, organic molecules also can be created by non-biological processes and are not necessarily indicators of life.

“With these new findings, Mars is telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, in Washington. “I’m confident that our ongoing and planned missions will unlock even more breathtaking discoveries on the Red Planet.”

“Curiosity has not determined the source of the organic molecules,” said Jen Eigenbrode of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who is lead author of one of the two new Science papers. “Whether it holds a record of ancient life, was food for life, or has existed in the absence of life, organic matter in Martian materials holds chemical clues to planetary conditions and processes.”

Although the surface of Mars is inhospitable today, there is clear evidence that in the distant past, the Martian climate allowed liquid water – an essential ingredient for life as we know it – to pool at the surface. Data from Curiosity reveal that billions of years ago, a water lake inside Gale Crater held all the ingredients necessary for life, including chemical building blocks and energy sources.

“The Martian surface is exposed to radiation from space. Both radiation and harsh chemicals break down organic matter,” said Eigenbrode. “Finding ancient organic molecules in the top five centimeters of rock that was deposited when Mars may have been habitable, bodes well for us to learn the story of organic molecules on Mars with future missions that will drill deeper.”

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Trump Cancels Major Meeting

By: Mike Calia of CNBC

President Donald Trump canceled his historic nuclear summit with Kim Jong Un on Thursday, accusing North Korea of “tremendous anger and open hostility.”

The meeting, which would have marked the first face-to-face encounter between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, was set for June 12 in Singapore.

“Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote in a letter to Kim, which was released Thursday morning.

Stocks fell and gold rose after news of the cancellation broke.

Much of the letter was written in seemingly friendly terms, including praise for North Korea’s recent release of three American prisoners. In contrast, Trump also appeared to issue a threat that conjured memories of his war of words with Kim last year.

“You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used,” Trump wrote.

The cancellation appeared to take South Korea’s government by surprise. The nation’s president, Moon Jae-in, had played a pivotal role in setting up recent diplomatic developments.

A representative of Moon’s office said the South Korean administration was “trying to figure out what President Trump’s intention is and the exact meaning of it,” according to the country’s Yonhap News Agency. Moon and his aides convened emergency meetings to address the shock announcement, which broke shortly before midnight in Seoul.

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