Powering desalination with the sun — in India and New Mexico


Natasha WrightPhoto/Bryce Vickmark

When graduate student Natasha Wright began her PhD program in mechanical engineering, she had no idea how to remove salt from groundwater to make it more palatable, nor had she ever been to India, where this is an ongoing need.

Now, three years and six trips to India later, this is the sole focus of her work.

Wright joined the lab of Amos Winter, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, in 2012. The lab was just getting established, and the aim of Wright’s project was vague at first: Work on water treatment in India, with a possible focus on filtering biological contaminants from groundwater to make it safe to drink.

There are already a number of filters on the market that can do this, and during her second trip to India, Wright interviewed a number of villagers, finding that many of them weren’t using these filters. She became skeptical of how useful it would be to develop yet another device like this.

Although the available filters made water safe to drink, they did nothing to mitigate its saltiness — so the villagers’ drinking water tasted bad and eroded pots and pans, providing little motivation to use these filters. In reviewing the list of questions she had prepared for her interviews with locals, Wright noticed that there were no questions about the water’s salty taste…

Almost 60 percent of India has groundwater that’s noticeably salty, so later, after returning to MIT, Wright began designing an electrodialysis desalination system, which uses a difference in electric potential to pull salt out of water.

This type of desalination system has been around since the 1950s, but is typically only used municipally, to justify its costs. Wright’s project aims to build a system that’s scaled for a village of 5,000 people and still cost-effective…

Wright’s solution offers an alternative to grid power: She’s designed a village-scale desalination system that runs on solar power. Since her system is powered by the sun, operational and maintenance costs are fairly minimal: The system requires an occasional cartridge filter change, and that’s it.

The system is also equipped to treat the biological contaminants that Wright initially thought she’d be treating, using ultraviolet light. The end result is safe drinking water that also tastes good

Although Wright’s work is currently focused on rural villages in India, she sees many uses for the technology in the United States as well. In isolated areas, such as the ranches in New Mexico where she tested her system at full scale, poor access to water pipelines often leads to a heavy reliance on well water. But some ranchers find that even their livestock won’t tolerate the saltiness of this water.

“It’s useful to install a small-scale desalination system where people are so spread out that it’s more costly to pump in water from a municipal plant,” she says. “That’s true in India and that’s also true in the U.S.”

It’s certainly true in downstate New Mexico. We have beaucoup brackish fossil water in great quantities. Not being used for much of anything, now.

Thanks, Om

Donald Trump – you’re fired! Sincerely, NBC


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NBC is ending its business relationship with Donald Trump over his recent comments about Mexican immigrants.

“At NBC, respect and dignity for all people are cornerstones of our values,” NBC said in a statement. “Due to the recent derogatory statements by Donald Trump regarding immigrants, NBCUniversal is ending its business relationship with Mr. Trump.”

The network will no longer air the annual Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants that were part of a joint venture with Trump, the statement added. Its relationship with “Celebrity Apprentice” will continue, as Trump ceased his involvement with the reality show during his presidential bid…

Univison previously announced that it would cease its relationship with the Miss Universe Organization over the comments. Trump has said he will sue that network for breach of contract and defamation.

Trump responded to the news after an appearance in Chicago, telling reporters: blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!

No need to repeat crap lies from a reactionary clown show like Donald Trump. His deceit, foolishness, lifelong dedication to self-aggrandizement and bigoted causes is well-enough known.

The Republican Party deserves him. My only hope is that his billion$ buy him a candidacy.

The Honduran meltdown – Made in America


Risk on!

In May 2005, US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick appeared at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington to rally support for CAFTA, a free trade agreement between the US, the Central American countries, and the Dominican Republic.

In his remarks, Zoellick played up the notion that, for Central America and the DR, the agreement would “strengthen democracy through economic growth and open societies based on the rule of law”, while also entailing various perks for the gringos; a T-shirt reading “Made in Honduras”, he enthused, would likely contain over 60 percent US content.

The deputy secretary and future president of the World Bank went as far as to assert that, “In many ways, CAFTA is the logical culmination of 20 years of democratic and social progress in Central America, nurtured and encouraged by the United States.”

Never mind that, 20-some years ago, the United States was nurturing things like Battalion 3-16, described by the Baltimore Sun as a “CIA-trained military unit that terrorised Honduras for much of the 1980s”…

To be sure, much of Honduras’ contemporary plight – while perhaps appearing on the surface, like Zoellick’s T-shirt, to be a domestic creation – is in fact Made in USA.

Encouraged by then-US ambassador to Honduras John Negroponte, the Battalion 3-16 death squad was responsible for the disappearance of almost 200 suspected Honduran leftists and the torture and kidnapping of many more.

The aim of right-wing terror, of course, was to prevent a Honduran crossover to the communist dark side a la neighbouring Nicaragua – against whose transgressions Honduras had the honour of acting as de facto US military base and staging ground for the Nicaraguan “contra” war.

Aside from the Honduran army and similarly reactionary forces, other Hondurans benefited from the arrangement, as well. Among them was Juan Ramon Matta Ballesteros, the country’s most famed drug lord and owner of the contra supply airline SETCO, dubbed the “CIA airline”.

It’s this sort of arrangement that makes a mockery of continuing US drug war rhetoric, which excuses the militarisation of the hemisphere and allows the US Drug Enforcement Administration to transcend borders at will, while US borders are increasingly fortified…

Maria Luisa Borjas, the former chief of internal affairs for the Honduran police force, herself confirmed to me during a conversation in 2009, that approximately 3,000 young people had been murdered by the state during the presidency of Ricardo Maduro (2002-06).

Inspired by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Maduro acted as the ringleader for Honduras’ very own zero tolerance regime, which was characterised, Borjas said, by a criminalisation of youth and a liberal application of the term “gang member” to validate extrajudicial killings…

This could have been predicted from the get-go by anyone who paid scant attention to NAFTA, the 1994 free trade accord that lowered wages in Mexico, raised unemployment, and forced two million Mexican farmers to abandon their land thanks to US export subsidies.

The post-coup era has seen soaring homicide rates, with much of the violence committed by state security forces enjoying near-total impunity…

The US, for its part, did its best to legitimise the 2009 coup while pretending not to. After hemming and hawing for months about whether or not a coup perpetrated by the military qualified as a military coup and thus necessitated punitive financial measures, the US recognised the outcome of illegitimate Honduran elections held in November 2009 by the coup-installed regime. And poof, Honduras was restored to the realm of democracy.

Democracy is a word Americans lap up like a hungry cat with a bowl of cream. The calories may not be healthy calories. Long range we may all die of coronary artery disease – or its political equivalent.

Meanwhile, the World Bank-types brag that “Made in Honduras” equals 60% of the profits coming to US Corporations. I’m not sure how that is supposed to benefit the people of Honduras.

500K Chinese visitors expected to visit Yellowstone, this year

There are a lot of places to get visitor information about Jackson Hole and the greater Yellowstone region — unless you’re looking for one printed in Mandarin Chinese.

Then the guide you’re looking for is Escape.

The glossy mag hit stands and the Internet about a week ago — with 15,000 in the communities around Yellowstone National Park, 15,000 in China and 420,000 digital copies for all Chinese citizens who have applied to renew travel visas.

The total nearly matches the number of Chinese nationals that Yellowstone expects to see this summer.

“That’s an increase from 300-odd-thousand last year,” said Brian Riley, publisher of Escape. “That’s a huge increase.”…

The former investment banker visited Japan as an exchange student at the age of 14 — “I know Japanese like the back of my hand,” he said — and he ran a division of a bank in Singapore for about 15 years. For the past 15 or 16 years he has continued to travel regularly to China and other Asian countries.

“When I retired from [banking] I moved to Jackson,” he said. “I’ve been constantly looking for something that uses my business and entrepreneurial background.”

When he began to see more and more Chinese tourists coming to Jackson Hole, and began to hear that the upward trend in visitation was predicted to continue, he found what he was looking for…

A well-circulated statistic has the typical Chinese tourist spending $6,000 on a visit to America.

“Assuming they spend a lot on airfare and other visits, even if it’s just one-third [of] that, that’s $1 billion spent in Yellowstone,” he said…

And while these tourists may look average in their rental cars and Western clothes, chances are that they are wealthy.

“They own their own factories,” Riley said. “They are not factory workers or store employees. They are big business owners,” and they want to leave some of their money behind as they travel.

Too many local American communities are hypocrites – like our government – when it comes to putting real business interests on the line. The Feds blather about the shortage of Chinese investment in American companies. Then, Congress, the State Department or the White House rolls out some jingoistic rant when actual offers are made to buy American companies or start up a branch of a Chinese business.

Local yokels whine about shortages of tourists, the small amount of foreign direct investment in their state or city economy. Followed up by fear and trembling press conferences, Tea Party rallies, lifetime fools whining about the dangers of foreign money entering the economy.

If this nation spent as much time entertaining real investment from China in the talent and experience we have to offer – as we spend whining in fear – we’d probably be a year or two closer to climbing back to cyclic normal from the Great Recession.

And only one person in Jackson Hole got around to producing a local guide in Mandarin.

Let’s-pretend-to-be-journalists at CNN think sex toys sign is jihadist flag!

On Saturday, CNN ran an entire segment on the possible sighting of an Islamic State flag at a pride parade in London.

“Just in: ISIS flag spotted at gay pride parade,” read a banner stretching across the bottom of the news channel’s TV feed as cameras repeatedly panned and zoomed in on what turned out to be a flag featuring crude drawings of sex toys.

“ISIS flag amongst a sea of rainbow colours was spotted by a CNN international assignment editor,” CNN’s anchor said.

The flag was apparently spotted by CNN International reporter Lucy Pawle, who joined the segment via phone to talk about her startling discovery.

“This man dressed in black and white was waving what appears to be a very bad mimicry, but a clear attempt to mimic, the ISIS flag,” Pawle said. “The black and white flag with the distinctive lettering.”

Though Pawle seemed to grasp the inauthenticity of the flag, she failed to realize the humor in it and even reported it to nearby police.

“If you look at the flag closely, it’s clearly not Arabic. In fact, it looks like it could be gobbledygook.”

CNN’s mistake quickly went viral, earning derision from a variety of online news sources. CNN has since removed the video from their website. Mediaite, however, posted a clip of the incident for posterity’s sake.

Amateur entertainers pretending to report on news. The American disease spreads worldwide.

A pool parasite — not carrying a beer

Cryptosporidium
Yes – highly magnified

A hardy parasite has led federal health officials to warn pool goers to be careful in the water this summer.

Outbreaks related to pools, hot tubs and other recreational uses of water can be dangerous and according to a new report the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 90 outbreaks between 2011 to 2012 resulted in 1,788 illnesses, 95 hospitalizations and one death.

A major cause of the outbreaks in treated water, including hot tubs and pools, is a hardy parasite called Cryptosporidium, which is encased in a tough shell and causes acute gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea.

Michele Hlavsa, chief of the CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program, said the parasite is particularity troubling due to how long it can live in treated water.

It can survive for 10 days,” Hlavasa told ABC News, noting that other bacteria including E. coli are killed in minutes to hours in a treated pool.

“With these outbreaks, we see they disproportionately affect young children,” Hlavasa said. “They’re the ones who can go to a pool and young children tend to carry lots of germs.”…

To stay safe, pool goers should look to see if their pool’s most recent inspection was posted through their local health department or even look into buying their own chlorine tests that can be used to test if the water is properly treated.

Eeoough! You’re often better off if you can avoid the young of your own species. :)

Global pollution from maritime shipping has been grossly underestimated


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Britain and other European governments have been accused of underestimating the health risks from shipping pollution following research which shows that one giant container ship can emit almost the same amount of cancer and asthma-causing chemicals as 50 million cars.

Confidential data from maritime industry insiders based on engine size and the quality of fuel typically used by ships and cars shows that just 15 of the world’s biggest ships may now emit as much pollution as all the world’s 760 million cars. Low-grade ship bunker fuel has up to 2,000 times the sulphur content of diesel fuel used in US and European automobiles.

Pressure is mounting on the UN’s International Maritime Organisation and the EU to tighten laws governing ship emissions following the decision by the US government last week to impose a strict 230-mile buffer zone along the entire US coast, a move that is expected to be followed by Canada.

The setting up of a low emission shipping zone follows US academic research which showed that pollution from the world’s 90,000 cargo ships leads to 60,000 deaths a year in the US alone and costs up to $330bn per year in health costs from lung and heart diseases. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates the buffer zone, which could be in place by next year, will save more than 8,000 lives a year with new air quality standards cutting sulphur in fuel by 98%, particulate matter by 85% and nitrogen oxide emissions by 80%…

…A spokesman for the UK government’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency accepted there were major gaps in the legislation. “Issues of particulate matter remain a concern. They need to be addressed and blah, blah, blah, blah,” said environment policy director Jonathan Simpson…

“It is unacceptable that shipping remains one of the most polluting industries in the world. The UK must take a lead in cleaning up emissions,” said Simon Birkett, spokesman for the Campaign for Clean Air in London. “Other countries are planning radical action to achieve massive health and other savings but the UK is strangely inactive.”

Overdue. As usual.

None of the science is especially new or surprising. The attitude of shippers, corporations providing most of the cargo, governments supposedly in charge of regulating the environment on behalf of their citizens – uniformly accepts profits as a higher priority than human lives.

Anesthesiologist trash-talks sedated patient — $500K worth!

colonoscopy

Sitting in his surgical gown inside a large medical suite in Reston, Va., a Vienna man prepared for his colonoscopy by pressing record on his smartphone, to capture the instructions his doctor would give him after the procedure.

But as soon as he pressed play on his way home, he was shocked out of his anesthesia-induced stupor: He found that he had recorded the entire examination and that the surgical team had mocked and insulted him as soon as he drifted off to sleep.

In addition to their vicious commentary, the doctors discussed avoiding the man after the colonoscopy, instructing an assistant to lie to him, and then placed a false diagnosis on his chart…

There was much more. So the man sued the two doctors and their practices for defamation and medical malpractice and, last week, after a three-day trial, a Fairfax County jury ordered the anesthesiologist and her practice to pay him $500,000…

The jury awarded the man $100,000 for defamation — $50,000 each for the comments about the man having syphilis and tuberculosis — and $200,000 for medical malpractice, as well as the $200,000 in punitive damages. Though the remarks by Ingham and Shah perhaps did not leave the operating room in Reston, experts in libel and slander said defamation does not have to be widely published, merely said by one party to another and understood by the second party to be fact, when it is not…

Because he was going to be fully anesthetized, the man decided to turn on his cellphone’s audio recorder before the procedure so it would capture the doctor’s post-operation instructions, the suit states. But the man’s phone, in his pants, was placed beneath him under the operating table and inadvertently recorded the audio of the entire procedure, court records show. The doctors’ attorneys argued that the recording was illegal, but the man’s attorneys noted that Virginia is a “one-party consent” state, meaning that only one person involved in a conversation need agree to the recording.

The recording captured Ingham mocking the amount of anesthetic needed to sedate the man, the lawsuit states…”…The discussion soon turned to the rash on the man’s penis, followed by…comments implying that the man had syphilis or tuberculosis. The doctors then discussed “misleading and avoiding” the man after he awoke

Ingham then mocked the man for attending Mary Washington College, once an all-women’s school, and wondered aloud whether her patient was gay, the suit states. Then the anesthesiologist said, “I’m going to mark ‘hemorrhoids’ even though we don’t see them and probably won’t,” and did write a diagnosis of hemorrhoids on the man’s chart, which the lawsuit said was a falsification of medical records.

After declaring the patient a “big wimp,” Ingham reportedly said: “People are into their medical problems. They need to have medical problems.”

Stupid 101. Testimony included expert opinion that anesthesiologists should be aware that any patient might not be in a deep sleep and might recall hearing silly, irrelevant remarks. Catching the whole procedure as an audio recording was a plus that locked everything up for the lawsuit.

If you feel like RTFA, some of the recordings are available. :)

Thanks, Honeyman