‘National Geographic’ Reckons With Its Past: ‘Our Coverage Was Racist’


((Commentary from: Oldpoet56) During my lifetime I probably read articles within National Geographic Magazines about a dozen times. Because I only read spot articles here and there I never realized that they had been this racist. Their history on race is disgusting, and this does disappoint me greatly. I do commend them though on finally recognizing this glaring fault and for having the guts to ‘call themselves out’ on this issue. Hopefully in their future they will eliminate this fault. I know that any of their magazines that I come across in the future I will be looking to see if their racism has stopped.)  

‘National Geographic’ Reckons With Its Past: ‘For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist’

In a full-issue article on Australia that ran in National Geographic in 1916, aboriginal Australians were called “savages” who “rank lowest in intelligence of all human beings.” The magazine examines its history of racist coverage in its April issue.

C.P. Scott (L) and H.E. Gregory (R)/National Geographic

If National Geographic‘s April issue was going to be entirely devoted to the subject of race, the magazine decided it had better take a good hard look at its own history.

Editor in Chief Susan Goldberg asked John Edwin Mason, a professor of African history and the history of photography at the University of Virginia, to dive into the magazine’s nearly 130-year archive and report back.

What Mason found was a long tradition of racism in the magazine’s coverage: in its text, its choice of subjects, and in its famed photography.

Enlarge this image

The April issue of National Geographic is all about race.

National Geographic

“[U]ntil the 1970s National Geographic all but ignored people of color who lived in the United States, rarely acknowledging them beyond laborers or domestic workers,” writes Goldberg in the issue’s editor letter, where she discusses Mason’s findings. “Meanwhile it pictured ‘natives’ elsewhere as exotics, famously and frequently unclothed, happy hunters, noble savages—every type of cliché.”

Unlike magazines such as Life, National Geographic did little to push its readers beyond the stereotypes ingrained in white American culture,” Goldberg says, noting that she is the first woman and first Jewish person to helm the magazine – “two groups that also once faced discrimination here.”

To assess the magazine’s coverage historically, Mason delved into old issues and read a couple of key critical studies. He also pored over photographers’ contact sheets, giving him a view of not just the photos that made it into print, but also the decisions that photographers and editors made.

He saw a number of problematic themes emerge.

“The photography, like the articles, didn’t simply emphasize difference, but made difference … very exotic, very strange, and put difference into a hierarchy,” Mason tells NPR. “And that hierarchy was very clear: that the West, and especially the English-speaking world, was at the top of the hierarchy. And black and brown people were somewhere underneath.”

For much of its history, the pages of National Geographic depicted the Western world as dynamic, forward-moving and very rational. Meanwhile, Mason says, “the black and brown world was primitive and backwards and generally unchanging.”

One trope that he noticed time and again were photographs showing native people apparently fascinated by Westerners’ technology.

“It’s not simply that cameras and jeeps and airplanes are present,” he says. “It’s the people of color looking at this technology in amusement or bewilderment.” The implication was that Western readers would find humor in such fascination with their everyday goods.

Then there’s how the magazine chose its subject matter. Mason explains that National Geographic had an explicit editorial policy of “nothing unpleasant,” so readers rarely saw war, famine or civic conflict.

He points to an article on South Africa from the early 1960s that barely mentions the Sharpeville Massacre, in which 69 black South Africans were killed by police.

South African gold miners were “entranced by thundering drums” during “vigorous tribal dances,” a 1962 issue reported.

Kip Ross/National Geographic Creative

“There are no voices of black South Africans,” Mason told Goldberg. “That absence is as important as what is in there. The only black people are doing exotic dances … servants or workers. It’s bizarre, actually, to consider what the editors, writers, and photographers had to consciously not see.”

Then there’s the way women of color were often depicted in the magazine: topless.

“Teenage boys could always rely, in the ’50s and ’60s, on National Geographic to show them bare-breasted women as long as the women had brown or black skin,” Mason says. “I think the editors understood this was frankly a selling point to its male readers. Some of the bare-breasted young women are shot in a way that almost resembles glamour shots.”

Mason says the magazine has been dealing with its history implicitly for the last two or three decades, but what made this project different is that Goldberg wanted to make reckoning explicit — “That National Geographic should not do an issue on race without understanding its own complicity in shaping understandings of race and racial hierarchy.”

Although slave labor was used to build homes featured in a 1956 article, the writer contended that they “stand for a chapter of this country’s history every American is proud to remember.”

Robert F. Sisson and Donald McBain/National Geographic

For those of us who have spent long afternoons thumbing old issues of the magazine and dreaming of far-off lands, Mason wants to make clear that looking at foreign people and places isn’t a bad thing.

“We’re all curious and we all want to see. I’m not criticizing the idea of being curious about the world. It’s just the other messages that are sent—that it’s not just difference, but inferiority and superiority.”

So where does the storied publication go from here?

One good step would be to invite the diverse contributors to the April issue to become part of the magazine’s regular pool of writers and photographers, Mason suggests.

“Still it’s too often a Westerner who is telling us about Africa or Asia or Latin America,” he says. “There are astonishing photographers from all over the world who have unique visions – not just of their own country, but who could bring a unique vision to photographing Cincinnati, Ohio, if it came to that.”

He notes that the magazine’s images have so often captivated, even when they were stereotypical or skewed. Mason says a number of African photographers have told him that it was magazines like National Geographic and Life that turned them onto photography in the first place.

“They knew that there were problems with the way that they and their people were being represented,” he says. “And yet the photography was often spectacularly good, it was really inviting, and it carried this power. And as young people, these men and women said, I want to do that. I want to make pictures like that.”

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Ukraine Ejects Ex-Georgian President, Deporting Him To Poland



Ukraine Ejects Ex-Georgian President, Deporting Him To Poland

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili speaks to the media prior to a scheduled court hearing in Kiev last month.

Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images

Ukrainian authorities have deported Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president who has emerged as a vocal antagonist of the government in Kiev. Ukraine’s border agency confirmed his deportation to Poland on Monday, while videos on social media purported to show Saakashvili getting seized by masked men.

“This person was on Ukrainian territory illegally,” the agency said in a statement released Monday, “and therefore, in compliance with all legal procedures, he was returned to the country from which he arrived.”

Representatives of Saakashvili are describing the incident in starkly different terms.

Earlier Monday the populist politician’s Facebook account released a plea for help, saying “unknown people in masks kidnapped [him] and drove him in an unknown direction.” At the same time, the account uploaded several videos appearing to show his “abduction” in a restaurant at the hands of several shouting men.

Hours later, he called reporters from Warsaw with his account of the confrontation: “They broke into the cafe,” he said. “They tried to close my eyes, tie my hands.”

Within hours he had been placed on a plane to Poland.

Saakashvili and his supporters have cast the move as an attempt to remove a prominent threat to President Petro Poroshenko, a former ally who granted Saakashvili Ukrainian citizenship and even appointed him governor several years ago — only to strip him of that citizenship after Saakashvili quit amid a flurry of accusations that Poroshenko was blocking his attempts at reform.

Saakashvili — a populist politician who also faces a three-year prison sentence in Georgia for embezzlement and abuse of authority during his presidency there — lost his rights as a Ukrainian last summer while he was in the U.S. He returned, though, gathering supporters on the Poland-Ukraine border for a climactic push back into the country in September. Since then he has drawn a considerable following in Ukraine, even as Ukrainian officials have condemned him as a provocateur backed by a pro-Russian criminal group.

Earlier this month Saakashvili lost his appeal for protection against the possibility of getting extradited to Georgia to stand charges.

“The Georgian authorities never asked for my extradition when I was in America or in Europe,” the 50-year-old opposition leader told The Guardian last week, when he was still living and working in central Kiev. “They only did it when I returned to Ukraine because Poroshenko asked them to.”

Now, after grappling with Saakashvili for months, Kiev has managed to eject him. Time will tell whether he will stay out of Ukraine or whether, as he did last year, he will somehow manage to return. In the meantime, Saakashvili might be out of the country — but he is not exactly out of earshot.

“This is not a president and not a man,” he said of Poroshenko in a statement after the deportation Monday, according to Reuters. “This is a lowlife crook who wants to wreck Ukraine. All this shows how weak they are. We will of necessity defeat them.”

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Dow Drops 666 Points In Sharp Sell-Off



Dow Drops 666 Points In Sharp Sell-Off

Traders at the New York Stock Exchange on Friday. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 666 points amid signs that interest rates are heading higher.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET

Major stock indexes dropped sharply Friday, with the Dow Jones industrial average tumbling 666 points amid signs that wage growth is finally picking up.

The 2.6-percent drop in the Dow came as the Labor Department reported 200,000 jobs were added to the economy last month, which was stronger than expected, and the unemployment rate stayed at 4.1 percent — the lowest since 2000.

But worries about inflation grew when the report showed that average hourly wages grew 2.9 percent from a year ago — the largest increase since June 2009. Yields for 10-year Treasurys hit four-year highs Friday.

All this sets the stage for the Federal Reserve to continue raising interest rates, with the next hike expected in March. It sets the stage to make credit cards, car loans and mortgages more expensive.

The Dow closed at 25,520.96, and Friday’s 666-point drop was the sixth-worst ever. The index is still up more than 3 percent since the year began. But with a loss about 1,000 points since Monday, it was the blue chip index’s worst weekly performance in 2 years.

Other major indexes fell about 2 percent Friday. The broader S&P 500 slid 60 points, to 2,762.13; the Nasdaq index lost 145 points, closing at 7,240.95.

Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at Northern Trust, says Friday’s employment report shows the economy continues to have a lot of energy.

The higher wage growth and potentially higher inflation “might then lead the Federal Reserve to raise their interest rates more rapidly than the market is comfortable with,” he told NPR’s John Ydstie.

NPR’s Jim Zarroli reports: “Now, investors are starting to think, maybe things are moving too fast. The government has cut taxes and it’s borrowing more — maybe we’re going to see inflation.”

But, he says, “The stock market was really due to come down somewhat. We have these corrections. They’re normal. Stock prices can’t keep rising at these levels.”

An $846,000 Inheritance Got Lost In Transit. That Was In February



An $846,000 Inheritance Got Lost In Transit. That Was In February

It has been more than nine months since a family in Canada realized that UPS lost a bank draft worth $846,000 (Canadian) that was sent to an inheritor. So far, the only money recovered is the $32 it cost to ship the document. The family’s bank, TD Canada Trust, has delayed issuing a new bank draft.

Lorette Taylor, who lives in Ontario, was distributing the proceeds from her late father’s estate when she tried to send an inheritance to her brother, Louis Paul Hebert, who lives near Cornwall, Ontario, some 270 miles from the office of the family’s lawyer.

Their story ran on the CBC on Thursday — and within hours, reporter John Lancaster says in a tweet, TD Canada Trust issued a statement on Thursday that read, “It’s clear to us we didn’t get this right along the way and that there was more we could have done to come to a resolution faster.”

Taylor told the CBC that she and her husband, John, went to their longtime bank, TD Canada Trust, hoping to get a certified check for $846,000 Canadian — around $660,000 in U.S. dollars, at today’s exchange rate. But TD employees had a different idea. As Taylor said, given the large sum, “They said a bank draft was more appropriate.”

Bank drafts are generally seen as being one step beyond cashier’s checks, in terms of security and guarantee. In nearly every case, they’re issued to signify that a bank has total control of the money being transferred. And in theory, at least, they’re able to be replaced or reimbursed if an initial draft is lost or destroyed.

An mage taken from a TD Canada Trust error messagethat NPR received when trying to read about how the institution handles bank drafts.

TD Canada Trust/Screenshot by NPR

We can’t get more specific about how TD’s Canada operation handles bank drafts, because when we clicked a link in this statement on its site to “find out more information about purchasing a draft,” the site returned a page stating, seemingly without ironic intent, “The document you requested cannot be found.”

The Taylors’ bank draft never made it to Cornwall. UPS says it was able to track it to Concord, north of Toronto. But after that, the shipping company says, the trail turns cold. In February, TD Bank said the draft could be canceled — but only if the Taylors signed an indemnity agreement.

“Essentially, the bank wanted to hold Lorette — the executor of her father’s estate — liable for life if the draft was cashed illegally,” the CBC reports. Under the terms, the liability would extend to Lorette’s spouse and heirs.

Lorette Taylor eventually signed that agreement; the bank still did not produce the funds. TD officials told the Taylors that they would need to secure the balance of the draft further, by taking a lien on their home. To that, they refused.

“If the bank really wants indemnity,” she said in explaining her thinking to the CBC, “then UPS should sign it.”

There may now be new hope of a deal being reached, particularly as TD Canada Trust has issued a new statement as the story has won a wide audience in Canada and beyond.

But Hebert, 61, who went to the UPS store to await his hefty check back in February, is still waiting.

“TD has the money” he told the CBC. “The money is actually sitting in an account with TD. Nothing has been stolen. It’s there. That’s my inheritance.”

Every day, Hebert said, he kicks himself for not simply driving to pick up the bank draft.

Discussing the difference the money could have made, he said, “I would have been retired.”

San Diego: Hepatitis A Outbreak: At Least 421 Sickened And 16 Dead So Far


(Epoch Times is based in New York City and mainly focuses on China news)


At least 421 people have been sickened and 16 have been killed during an outbreak of Hepatitis A in San Diego as of Sept. 12, 2017.

Some 292 people of the 421 were hospitalized due to the illness, according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency’s latest figures, released Tuesday.

“This is an outbreak of unprecedented proportion, and we have not seen an outbreak of this nature as relates to hepatitis A before,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County’s public health director, CNN reported.

Most of the infections—65 percent—are occurring among homeless people, those who use illegal drugs, or both. Another 23 percent of cases occurred in people who associate with homeless people, Wooten explained to the news network.


“Basically, if an individual is infected with hepatitis A and they use the bathroom and don’t wash their hands, and then they can spread or contaminate the environment: door handles, ATMs or whatever they touch,” Wooten said.

Symptoms of the illness—which can be “mild to severe”—can include “fever, malaise, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark-colored urine, and jaundice,” according to the World Health Organization.

Wooten was forced to declare a state of emergency in the county on Sept. 1.

“The local emergency was declared to increase and heighten awareness of the seriousness of the outbreak,” she said.

As NPR reported, San Diego officials started washing down sidewalks down with bleach to kill off the bug. The areas sprayed down with bleach are frequented by homeless people.

Mike Saag, a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, told the broadcaster that San Diego’s bleaching approach is a reasonable one.

Geographic distribution of Hepatitis A prevalence — Red: High : prevalence higher than 8%; orange: Intermediate : between 2% and 7%; grey: Low : less than 2% (Wikipedia)

“If there’s a sanitation problem, then the thing to do is clean up the area, and bleach is probably the best disinfectant that we have for this type of viral infection,” he said.

Wooten, meanwhile, added that more than 21,000 people have been vaccinated.

According to the World Health Organization, the risks are higher where there is:

  • poor sanitation;
  • lack of safe water;
  • use of recreational drugs;
  • living in a household with an infected person;
  • being a sexual partner of someone with acute hepatitis A infection; and
  • travelling to areas of high endemicity without being immunized.

According to San Diego officials, here is how it’s transmitted:

  • Touching objects or eating food that someone with HAV infection handled.
  • Having sex with someone who has a HAV infection.

At Least 7 People Fatally Shot In Dallas Suburb; Officer Kills Suspect



At Least 7 People Fatally Shot In Dallas Suburb; Officer Kills Suspect

A police officer stands guard outside the scene of a mass shooting in Plano, Texas, on Sunday.

LM Otero/AP

Seven people were shot and killed at a home in a Dallas suburb where they had reportedly gathered to watch a football game, authorities and neighbors say. A police officer who arrived on the scene exchanged gunfire with the suspected shooter, who was killed.

Two other people were wounded in the incident, police said. There was no immediate word on their conditions.

The shooting occurred around 8 p.m. local time Sunday in Plano, about 20 miles northeast of Dallas. The victims, who were all said to be adults, had held an afternoon barbecue ahead of the Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants game, according to neighbors.

A nearby officer heard gunfire and responded, The Dallas Morning News reports.

The officer “made entry, and that’s when he observed several victims inside and then engaged the suspect,” police spokesman David Tilley was quoted as saying by the Morning News.

“We’re looking into a motive,” Tilley said, adding that the relationship between the victims and the shooter was unknown as yet. However, the newspaper writes that:

“A neighbor said a friend of one of the homeowners said the violence had been sparked by a domestic dispute. … The couple identified in public records as the homeowners sought a divorce in July.”

The police spokesman said the shooting was unusual for Plano. He declined to say whether police had been called to the house in the past, according to The Associated Press.

One neighbor, Stacey Glover, told the Morning News that the party had started in the afternoon, with people laughing and grilling outside. The newspaper reports: “She heard shots about 8 p.m., opened her door and smelled gunpowder. When police arrived, she heard them yelling, ‘Hands up’ before more shots rang out.”

NPR Draws Online Ire After Tweeting ‘Declaration Of Independence’


NPR Draws Online Ire After Tweeting ‘Declaration Of Independence’

WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — National Public Radio marked the Fourth of July by tweeting the entire Declaration of Independence, but it seems some Twitter users didn’t recognize what they were reading.

The broadcaster tweeted out the words of the declaration line-by-line Tuesday.

Some of the founders’ criticisms of King George III were met with angry responses from supporters of President Donald Trump, who seemed to believe the tweets were a reference to his presidency.

One tweet read, “A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Another said: “and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.”A Twitter user accused NPR of condoning violence while trying to sound patriotic. The user apologized after the misunderstanding was pointed out. Tweets like that one drew a snarky reply from comedy writer Chris Regan.

Another user asked if the tweet was talking about the U.S. current foreign agenda, asking if Americans were the tyrants.

Others were under the impression NPR was trying to provoke Trump with the tweets and praised the outlet for doing so. Many, recognizing it was the Declaration of Independence, said how history is repeating itself.

NPR broadcast its annual reading of the declaration for the 29th straight year on Independence Day. This is the first year the tradition has been extended to Twitter.

In addition to the text of the document, NPR also tweeted the names of the men who signed the declaration, listing them by colony.

Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

New York
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris

Spokeswoman Allyssa Pollard says the tweets were shared by thousands of people and generated “a lively conversation.”

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

15 Dead, 110 May Be Buried After Landslide In Southwest China


15 Dead, 110 May Be Buried After Landslide In Southwest China

Chinese military police and rescue workers at the site of a landslide in Xinmo village, Sichuan province on Saturday.

STR/AFP/Getty Images

Updated 10:10 p.m. EST

More than 110 people remain missing after rescuers found 15 bodies among the debris of a landslide in the town of Xinmo in southwest China Saturday.

Local officials estimate more than 120 people and 62 homes were buried under tons of rubble.

The Chinese state news agency Xinhua reports 15 people are confirmed dead, as the now 3,000-strong rescue team, armed with “life-detection instruments and sniffer dogs,” continue to search overnight. Xinhua quoted the government of Sichuan province, where the town is located, as saying the identities of the 118 missing will be soon made public.

“We won’t give up as long as there is a slim of chance,” said an unidentified rescuer, according to the news agency.

Rescuers had pulled out at least three people earlier Saturday, Xinhua reported.

A family of three managed to escape the disaster after an infant in the home woke up crying half an hour before the landslide hit their house, the father, Qiao Dashuai, tells the news agency.

All 142 tourists visiting the site are alive, says Xu Zhiwen, executive deputy governor of the Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of Aba, where the landslide struck.

The landslide fell from “a high part of a mountain” nearby, Xinhua reports.

“There are several tons of rock,” police captain Chen Tiebo told the state television network CCTV, according to the BBC. “It’s a seismic area here,” he said.

“Initial accounts from villagers nearby said there had been rain in the area, but some said it was not very heavy and there was no sign of an impending landslide,” NPR’s Rob Schmitz reports from Shanghai.

More children than usual may be in the town because China’s schools are on vacation, Schmitz adds.

The landslide fell around 6 a.m. local time Saturday, Xinhua says, and also blocked a section of a nearby river and buried about a mile of a road.

The town remains without power, the agency adds, and the regional government has approved about $730,000-worth of rescue funding.

A massive earthquake hit the Sichuan province in 2008, which left about 90,000 dead or missing, and the BBC notes it also caused a landslide that killed 37 tourists.

Mother Of All Protest Marches In Venezuela Against President Maduro: Starvation


Racked by food shortages and political unrest, Venezuela swelled with what organizers are calling the “mother of all protests” on Wednesday. Demonstrators have taken to the streets in the capital, Caracas, and other major cities across the country to rally against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, who assumed office precisely five years ago.

Throughout the day, those rallies often devolved into clashes between demonstrators and security forces — chaotic, violent scenes rent by tear gas, tossed rocks and even two reported deaths.

Citing witnesses in Caracas, Reuters reports that Carlos Moreno, a teenage student who had not planned to join the demonstration, was shot in the head after “government supporters approached an opposition gathering and fired shots.” The news service says he died in the hospital later.

Later in the day a 23-year-old woman named Paola Ramirez was also shot and killed by pro-government groups, according to The Associated Press.

They were not the first to be felled in the course of the anti-Maduro protests that have been mounting since late last month. As of last week, five protesters — including a 13-year-old boy — had died of injuries suffered in fights with riot police.

But the protesters who showed up Wednesday vowed to keep struggling against Maduro and voicing their displeasure with the state of the country.

“This is exhausting — but we won’t give up until we achieve a better country and democracy,” Luiza Mayorca, a lawyer and mother of three, told NPR’s Phil Reeves in Caracas. “Every time we do something, that’s what we feel: that the worst thing would be to stay home, let fear take over us. This government, this regime, is making life miserable, and we cannot accept it.”

Demonstrators clog a Caracas highway on Wednesday, shouting their resistance to President Nicolas Maduro. The president’s push to tighten his power has helped trigger deadly unrest in Venezuela.

Carlos Becerra/AFP/Getty Images

“We want to get out of all this oppression and dictatorship, all the mistreatment we have had — the hunger, the kids dying in the countryside, the poverty,” another protester, an unemployed school teacher named Libertad Diaz, told Phil.

By several media accounts, hundreds of thousands of anti-Maduro demonstrators flooded city streets to protest bread scarcity, ballooning inflation — which several estimates peg at triple digits — and what they see as an increasingly dictatorial regime.

Protesters point to a moment a few weeks ago as proof of Maduro’s ever-tightening grasp on the levers of power, when a Supreme Court loyal to the president attempted to nullify the opposition-dominated legislature. The court backpedaled and restored power to the body after the abortive attempt drew anger both in Venezuela and the international community.

Maduro’s opposition is also demanding new elections, which were indefinitely postponed last year — mere months after Maduro also canceled a recall referendum that could have ousted him from power.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who was banned from public office for 15 years, protects himself against tear gas during a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday.

Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images

“What will end the phase in which our country currently finds itself? Allowing free and democratic elections and respecting the constitution, to put a stop to this coup d’état that’s being staged and controlled by Maduro together with the Supreme Court,” Henrique Capriles, a leading figure of the opposition, tells the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

Capriles, who Deutsche Welle calls “the opposition’s most promising candidate for the coming elections in 2018,” was banned last week from holding office for 15 years — a move Capriles says he does not recognize.

Maduro, for his part, has rejected the unrest as manufactured by forces outside Venezuela’s borders.

“The US government, the state department, have given the green light, the approval for a coup process to intervene in Venezuela,” Maduro said in a televised address Tuesday, according to The Guardian.

Demonstrators hurl flaming objects at riot police during a rally in Caracas against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday.

Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images

In response to Wednesday’s massive protests, which had long been in the works, Al Jazeera reports Maduro ordered the Venezuelan military to march in Caracas in “defense of morality” and “in repudiation of the traitors of the country.”

“From the first reveille, from the first rooster crow, the Bolivarian National Armed Forces will be in the streets … saying, ‘Long live the Bolivarian Revolution,’ ” he announced, referring to the populist “revolution” that brought his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, to power in 1999.

The military presence did little to ease the upheaval, however — or to dissuade protesters like Diaz.

“We’re going to go on struggling,” she said Wednesday, “because the one who tires, loses.”

Researchers Find a New Way to Make Water From Thin Air


Researchers Find a New Way to Make Water From Thin Air

A prototype MOF-based water-collection device is set up for testing on the roof of a building on the MIT campus.
A prototype MOF-based water-collection device is set up for testing on the roof of a building on the MIT campus. (Courtesy Evelyn Yang, MIT)

Researchers have come up with a new way to extract water from thin air. Literally.

This isn’t the first technology that can turn water vapor in the atmosphere into liquid water that people can drink, but researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and UC Berkeley say their approach uses less power and works in drier environments.

The new approach makes use of a substance called a MOF, a metal-organic framework. As the name suggests, these are materials made of metals mixed with organic compounds. Powders made from MOFs are very porous, so researchers have proposed using them to store hydrogen or methane fuels or to capture carbon dioxide.

MIT’s Evelyn Wang and her Berkeley colleague Omar Yaghi decided to try using MOFs to capture water. MOF powders can not only suck up liquid water, they can also absorb water vapor.

And there’s plenty of water vapor in the atmosphere. Even in the driest place on the planet there are tons of water molecules floating overhead.

The researchers built a small prototype water collector that contains a thin layer of MOF powder. The powder absorbs water vapor until it is saturated.

“Once you achieve that maximum amount,” Wang says, “you apply some type of heat to the system to release that water.”

And when the water is released, it collects in the bottom of the prototype.

There are other compounds that can suck water from the air, zeolites for example, but Wang says it takes a significant amount of energy to get these materials to release the water. Not so with a MOF device. “The amount of energy required is very low,” she says.

In the prototype, the heat needed to drive the water out of the MOF comes from ambient sunlight — no external power supply is needed.

Even in Chile's Atacama Desert, the driest place on Earth, there are water molecules floating overhead.
Even in Chile’s Atacama Desert, the driest place on Earth, there are water molecules floating overhead. (MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images)

As they report in the journal Science, Wang and her colleagues tested the prototype of their MOF-based device on the roof of a building at MIT, and it worked great.

But it’s just a prototype. It used only a fraction of an ounce of the MOF powder. “So the amount of water that we’ve shown is also pretty small,” says Wang.

According to Wang’s calculations, a full-size system using about 2 pounds of MOF powder could deliver close to three quarts of water per day.

And she expects scaling up the prototype won’t be all that expensive. Although MOFs are a relatively new material, “there are companies that already make various MOFS at very large bulk scales,” she says.

There are many steps before a mass-produced MOF-based water collector becomes a reality. It hasn’t been shown, for example, that the water released by the MOF powder is free of contaminants.

But it’s conceivable that someday if you’re visiting Death Valley, one of the driest places in the United States, you’ll be able to wet your whistle with a device based on Wang and Yaghi’s concept.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.