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

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR)

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

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

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

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF KQED NEWS SITE)

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/.

A Mountain Lion Kitten Is Found, Leading To Excitement And Concern

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR)

A Mountain Lion Kitten Is Found, Leading To Excitement And Concern

This is mountain lion kitten known as P-54 found in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. It is the only known kitten from P-23’s third litter, according to the National Park Service.

Courtesy of the National Park Service

Admit it. You only clicked on this story because of the photo of that insanely cute mountain lion kitten. You just wanted to gaze into her (yes, it’s a her) milky blue eyes.

That’s fair.

But there’s more to the story of this kitten. Researchers have named her P-54. She’s no more than a few months old. And – this is the sad part – it’s likely that she’s the product of inbreeding.

The kitten was born amidst the urban sprawl of Southern California in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the largest urban national park in the country. The recreation area is bordered by the Pacific Ocean, agricultural fields and greater Los Angeles.

“Think of it like an island,” says Jeff Sikich, a biologist for the National Park Service, who’s been tracking the park’s mountain lions in its steep chaparral-covered canyons for more than a decade. “[The mountain lions] are pretty much hemmed in by freeways and development on all sides.”

As a result, few cats – or other wildlife, for that matter – are able to come and go, so adult mountain lions resort to inbreeding. Researchers know that the kitten’s mother is P-23. And they suspect the father is P-23’s half-brother, P-30. They’re waiting for genetic testing to confirm their suspicions.

Sikich says it’s unlikely that P-30 or other mountain lions know they’re inbreeding. Male mountain lions don’t stick around to raise their kids. But the results of inbreeding could be devastating to the population’s future.

Limited genetic diversity can lead to mutations and abnormalities. Sikich points to the Florida panther, a population that almost went extinct from inbreeding. Researchers started to find genetic defects in the animals – holes in the heart, kinked tails and low sperm counts – before wildlife managers introduced outside panthers into the population to mix things up.

The same thing could start to happen in the Santa Monica Mountains. Sikich says they’ve only seen one outside mountain lion come into the park in the last 12 years. Others have been turned away by the freeways or killed by passing cars.

“If that was to stay the same into the future, we could get to that Florida panther level in roughly 35 years,” he says. “And then once we hit those levels, we can see pretty much 99 percent extinction within roughly 15 years.”

P-54 is a healthy kitten, Sikich says. And she’ll have a better chance at long-term survival than she would if she was a boy. Most male mountain lions are killed by the park’s dominant cats when they get old enough to leave their mother. Without a way to disperse outside of the mountains, they’re put in competition with the older males.

And it’s not all bad. Sikich and other researchers are encouraged and excited that the kitten was born.

“They are successfully reproducing and raising their young, which is a good thing,” Sikich says.

That’s impressive, he says, when you consider they’re large carnivores living just outside the second-largest urban area in the U.S. And the lessons they’re learning by studying the animals and how they survive in an urban and fragmented habitat could be used in other parts of the country. The National Wildlife Federation says that habitat loss, like that caused by fragmentation, is the biggest threat to wildlife in the U.S.

Park officials and wildlife advocates are hoping to address the fragmentation by building a wildlife overpass, which would connect the Santa Monica Mountains with other wilderness in Southern California. The proposed overpass would bridge over Route 101, a busy highway.

There are challenges to getting the project done, but Sikich is optimistic that the overpass will be built, giving future mountain lion kittens a better chance at long-term success.

In The Name Of God We Kill You And Your Families!—Really, In The Name Of God?

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

Dozens Dead In Multiple ISIS Bombings Across Baghdad

Bystanders inspect the scene after a car bomb explosion at a crowded outdoor market in the Iraqi capital’s eastern district of Sadr City on Monday.

Karim Kadim/AP

Dozens are dead in Baghdad after bombs were detonated across the city on Monday. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the bombings.

The death toll from the attacks is still climbing.

NPR’s Alice Fordham reported on the bombings, telling our Newscast Unit:

The first attack came in Sadr City on the edge of Baghdad, still reeling from a bombing on Saturday. The bomber pretended to be recruiting casual laborers for the day, so those killed were mainly poor manual workers. The next ones came at roughly the same time near two hospitals in the city, followed by three bombs in the poor Shaab area of the city.

The BBC reported that at least 35 people were killed and at least 61 injured by the blast in Sadr City, which is a “predominantly Shia Muslim” neighborhood. The BBC wrote: “The Sunni jihadist group Islamic State said it had carried out the attack, which ‘targeted a gathering of Shia.’ ”

Reuters reported that “nine of the victims were women in a passing minibus.” The news service wrote: “Their charred bodies were visible inside the burnt-out remains of the vehicle. Blood stained the ground nearby.”

The attacks followed other bombings in the city on Saturday, which killed 28 people, according to the BBC. Reuters wrote also wrote that “an attack near the southern city of Najaf on Sunday left seven policemen dead.”

Monday’s attacks coincide with an Iraq visit by French President Francois Hollande. Hollande gave a press conference with Iraqi prime minister Haider al Abadi, vowing to defeat ISIS.

“The terrorists will attempt to attack civilians in order to make up for their losses, but we assure the Iraqi people and the world that we are able to end terrorism and shorten its life,” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said, according to the BBC.

The ISIS bombings come as Iraqi security forces continue their offensive to push the self-proclaimed caliphate from the country. The U.S.-supported offensive was launched in mid-October, as the Two-Way reported, and has recaptured part of the city of Mosul, the terrorist group’s last major stronghold in Iraq.

According to Reuters, “Abadi has said the group will be driven out of the country by April.”