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Solar-Powered Hydrogel Is The Key Solution To Africa's Water Crisis Solar-Powered Hydrogel Is The Key Solution To Africa's Water Crisis

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Solar-Powered Hydrogel Is The Key Solution To Africa’s Water Crisis

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Water scarcity is one of the world’s leading problems affecting almost 1.1 billion people globally, according to the International Decade for Action “Water for Life.” Climate change also contributes to the diminishing water supply in most countries, causing streams and other bodies of water to run dry. The record shows that the number of lives threatened by this occurrence is increasing and the alternatives available are only limited.

In line with its cause to enhance the lives of underprivileged ones, the World Health Organization listed underdeveloped nations experiencing severe water shortages, but sadly does not have the capabilities to develop technologies that will solve scarcity and maintain the flow of water supply for future use. Countries under the coast of Africa dominate the list, and nowadays, are suffering from dwindling of water resources.

According to the World Health Organization, water shortage does not only refer to the physical lack of water, because if you add that to the equation, developed countries like the US would also be in the same position with Africa. It is often more about the economic resources perspective, and how the region can acquire or maintain an abundant supply of water.

Eastern Africa has long been the target of humanitarian aid from UNICEF and UNHCR. The countries under this land have an arid climate that is prone to drought. Further, due to its weak economy, everyone’s back is against the wall. This situation leaves millions of people in a global crisis where there is no reliable access to fresh and even clean water.

Engineers from the University of Texas at Austin offer a new solution that would help Africa fix its water scarcity through solar-powered technology that can provide clean and usable water. The breakthrough could be used in disaster situations, water crisis, or poverty-stricken areas in both developing and underdeveloped countries.

A research team led by Guihua Yu created a technology which relies mainly on hydrogels or gel-polymer hybrid materials, intended to be ‘super sponges’ that can store large amounts of water.

In 2018, Yu and Zhao started to develop a solar-powered water purification innovation using hydrogels that cleans or purifies water through solar energy. The team’s new project takes that work a step further by creating combined materials that possess both hygroscopic (water-absorbing) qualities and thermal responsive hydrophilicity (the ability to release water upon heating). This discovery opens the creation of a potentially life-saving trick which is pulling water out of thin air.

The innovation is designed to harvest moisture from the air and produce clean water during sunlight. It requires only the sun’s power to provide enough water that can meet the daily water consumption of an average household.

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), in partnership with the World Health Organization, is planning to sponsor the said project to be used in East African countries which are suffering from a terrible water crisis. Most places in these African plains have little to zero access to natural freshwater for drinking and other purposes.

According to the assessment done by hydrologists, a population needs 1,700 cubic meters per person (the national threshold for water requirements), and below 1,000 cubic meters is considered as a state of water scarcity.

Today, East Africa has the highest number of water-stressed countries among others. Out of 800 million people who live in that area, almost 300 million is in a water-stressed environment. And, as per WHO, it is most likely that by 2030, 75 to 250 million people in East Africa will be living in waterless extents.

The United Nations, UNICEF, and WHO, in compliance with the Millenium Development Goals, should be the first agents to introduce the project to these countries. Given the increased threat of drought, the 50,000 cubic kilometers contained in the atmosphere, can make 50 liters per kilogram of water production daily, which is enough already to aid the needs of most communities.

This project is intended to help underdeveloped and developing countries which are suffering from water crisis, according to Yu. Since this is economically-friendly, the budget for building such material on East Africa is not actually expensive. The Saharan and East African government already agreed to these organizations that they would provide help in any ways as long as the problem with water shortages will be given solution.

People in these specific countries will only have to leave the hydrogel outside, and it will thoroughly collect water. According to the team, the machine will work just fine with no complicated procedures or technicalities to operate the device. The collected water will remain in the hydrogel until you expose it to sunlight, then after five minutes, the water will be released.

However, it will need a thorough educational discussion with the communities in East Africa, including its proper uses and advantages. And, although it may seem to be a long process, the fact that this innovation aims to solve Africa’s water crisis, is already an excellent milestone for UNICEF and its partners.

Technology is beneficial especially if it is being used in a manner that can aid thousands of people and offers a solution to a specific problem. The research team has already moved to patent the device. With future advances, the machine could also replace solar-powered water purification systems for developed nations and a significant step to start transforming not just Africa but some impoverished countries around the world.

I've been contributing news since 2010, both online and print. Aside from Z6Mag, I manage independent news blogs that provide awareness on a diverse list of topics to every reader.

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SpaceX Starhopper test launch delayed to August 21

SpaceX Starhopper test flight face delays but a tentative date is set

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SpaceX is looking to launch Starhopper — an early test prototype of the company’s Mars-colonizing Starship vehicle — on August 21, based on tweets sent by the company’s founder, Elon Musk. 

Starship, once completed, is a super heavy-lift launch vehicle that’s pegged to be a 384-foot giant (117 meters). Upright, it will stand taller than the Statue of Liberty. The company aims to use this spacecraft to launch humans to space and to potentially colonize Mars. 

At the moment, SpaceX is looking to test a smaller prototype called Starhopper this weekend from its facility in Boca Chica, Texas, near the border city of Brownsville at an altitude of about 650 feet (200 meters).

However, Musk said in a series of tweets that they will be delaying the launch due to permissions that need to be secured from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“Good conversation with [the] head of FAA Space. Need a bit more hazard analysis & should be clear to fly soon,” one of Musk’s tweets read. 

Fortunately, Musk’s “soon” apparently means the middle of next week at the earliest. Officials in Cameron County, where Boca Chica lies, announced that Boca Chica Beach and part of State Highway 4 will be closed on August 21 from 2 p.m. to midnight local time to accommodate SpaceX activities. 

Cameron County officials also said that August 21 is the “primary date” for the closure, but August 21 and 22 will serve as alternative dates.

So far, Starhopper has already accomplished three test flights, all of them from Boca Chica. Reportedly, there were two brief hops in early April and flew freely for the first time on July 25, on a test flight that had a targeted altitude of 65 feet (20 m). 

In terms of the mechanical aspects of Starhopper, it will only have one Raptor engine — enough to make initial results to gauge for the final spacecraft. Meanwhile, Starship will have six Raptor engine, according to Musk and Super Heavy — a giant rocket that will propel Starship from Earth’s atmosphere — will have 35 Raptor engines.

However, these numbers could change as Musk is set to give a Starship design update on August 24. If all goes according to plan, the Starship-Super Heavy duo could begin launching satellites as early as 2021, SpaceX representatives have said. 

The spaceflight system already has a mission booked. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa wants SpaceX to carry him and a few other artists to a trip around the moon by 2023.

Significantly, the rocket is set to be a central piece in Musk’s commercial plans in space, as it will also be used to reach Mars and, hopefully, to come back to Earth for reuse.

Approximately, the Starship rockets are expected to launch up to 24 times a year from SpaceX’s current flagship launchpad 39A, the draft of the company’s environmental assessment said.

The rockets will also be integral in NASA’s Artemis mission, which hopes to bring man back and the first woman to the moon by 2024. The 39A launchpad would also support NASA’s future moon missions from the same Kennedy Space Centre site used for the Apollo lunar missions.

Furthermore, there are two sets of Starship vehicles that are being developed by SpaceX. Currently, both Starship spacecraft is being developed by separate teams of SpaceX engineers. One of which in Boca Chica, Texas and Starship Mk2, in Cocoa, Florida.

In the near future, SpaceX hopes to able to perform launches specifically targeting Mars and its endeavors of colonizing the red planet, Paul Wooster, the principal Mars development engineer at SpaceX, said during a speech at the Humans to Mars Summit in Washington in May. 

He explained that SpaceX’s first launch to Mars would be an uncrewed test to determine the environment of the planet such as the presence of natural resources and build the infrastructure necessary to support the company’s Starship flights to and from Mars; that could include landing pads and refueling stations for the reusable rockets. 

Meanwhile, the company also wants to use water ice from the planet’s surface and carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere to refuel Starships on Mars, enabling the rockets to return to Earth. 

“SpaceX’s intent, Elon’s intent in founding SpaceX was to enable humanity to become a multiplanet species, allowing us to establish cities on Mars” and to inspire people, Wooster said. “So, while some aspects of [Musk’s vision] are an artist’s concept, the vehicle itself is very much in development now.”

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Editors' Pick

Wave Spell Music Festival Returning to Belden, California

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 The small town of Belden, in Northern California, will host the Wave Spell music and arts festival later this month for the second year in a row.  The annual festival is held and curated by the veteran electro-jam group, Sound Tribe Sector 9, or STS9 to those familiar.   The festival begins on August 15th.

Sound Tribe, originally known as simply “Sector 9”, began their career around Atlanta in 1999 and is now based out of Santa Cruz, California, although they spend a significant amount of time on the road as one of the top touring acts in the game.

The Wave Spell festival is now in its second year, both being held in Belden-a small town on California’s Feather River with a population of only 22 people (as of 2010). With the inaugural year being a success by consensus of fans and insiders alike, there was much anticipation and delight among STS9 constituents with the announcement of another year in Belden.  Fans especially found great excitement at the idea of returning to the banks of the Feather River for Wave Spell.

In hosting the event, Sound Tribe Sector 9 will offer their own unique sound as the headlining entertainment and backbone of the weekend.  Just as they did last year, the band will play 9 sets of original music over three nights in Belden.  Among these performances, three sets will consist of completely improvised music by STS9, dubbed the “Wave Spell Sets”.  This format mimics the first year and is the festival’s namesake. 

Last year, Sound Tribe introduced the concept of their Wave Spell Sets and eventually brought them to the stage, getting an extremely enthusiastic response from their devoted fan base.  The band has presented only a handful of these improvisational performances, both at the festival and on the road, adding to the allure for their followers.

While STS9 is the main attraction in Belden, Wave Spell also boasts a heady lineup of other musical acts, as well as visual artists for festival attendees to enjoy.  Live music is promised until at least 5 A.M. every morning of the event, and early morning performances are known as “sunrise sets” suggest that music will go deep into the day.  As it did last year, the festival will also feature installations from painters as well as live painting during musical performances.  A new addition to the festival this year even offers a display of geological specimens billed as “Crystals by Isometrica”. 

The very small town of Belden, California plays host to several festivals a year.  These events take up the entirety of the town, which consists of only a few homes, a hotel/lodge, a few cabins, and a beach along the river.  The scenic grounds offer camping space for the 1,200 or so festival-goers as well as limited space for RV’s.  For a VIP experience, and at a VIP price, fans can also rent one of the cabins for the weekend or get one of the few rooms in the lodge.  The lodge is also home to a diner-style restaurant and a small convenience store where attendees can purchase supplies. 

The beach in Belden offers not only a beautiful space to relax on the river, but during the Wave Spell festival, it also provides the Beach Stage, where fans can enjoy live music throughout the day.  The beach stage is also the site for the fan-favorite “Sunrise Sets”, starting shortly before dawn and going on through the sunrise and into early morning daylight. 

Last year, in the festivals first year, the Beach Stage quickly became a favorite spot for STS9 fans, who loaded up the area of the Feather River directly in front of the stage with giant inflatable lounge apparatuses shaped like unicorns, ducks, and even a slice of pizza.  The river quickly became a large cluster of floaties, all of which were responsibly retrieved at the end of the weekend by the environmentally conscious crowd. 

The lineup for the second year of Wave Spell is almost entirely fresh.  Aside from STS9, only a few of the groups performing are returning from last year.  Among the veterans of the festival coming back is the Portland, Oregon electronic trio, Yak Attack, who were standouts at the first Wave Spell.  For the most part, however, festival-goers will experience a brand new roster of acts. 

For electronic music fans, Wave Spell submits an exciting schedule of artists and groups.  Amid the lineup of live electronic performers, a legend of the genre promises to be one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend.  DJ Mark Farina will take the stage in Belden to provide the crowd with his now iconic style of sound, dubbed by Farina as “Mushroom Jazz”.  Farina and his Mushroom Jazz have become synonymous and his sound has held the attention of the electronic music world for nearly three decades, dating back to his first Mushroom Jazz compilation in 1992. 

Over on the Beach Stage, early morning sunrise sets have become a popular fixture in the electronic music festival scene.  Often specially assembled to go along with the experience of watching the sun come up in the morning, these sunrise sets have become a favorite among fans. 

A new addition to the Wave Spell lineup this year almost seems to specialize in this type of first thing in the morning/end of the night performances.  Hailing from the San Francisco underground, Random Rab has seemingly perfected the art of the sunrise set.  A Burning Man legend in his own right, Rab seems to fully understand the important mix of laid back and beautiful along with intense and spiritual that makes for a fantastic sunrise set.  His early morning performances have become one of the most sought after in the game. 

Also returning to Wave Spell this year, diehard STS9 fans are particularly excited for solo performances from members of the headlining band.  On the festival schedule for the weekend are special solo sets from David Phipps (Keyboard/Piano) and Zach Velmer (Drums), of Sound Tribe Sector 9.  Along with Phipps and Velmer, STS9 bassist, Alana Rocklin also has something special in store for fans.  Rocklin’s previous band, Sub ID, will be reuniting for a set at Wave Spell.  This will be only the second Sub ID performance since Rocklin joined STS9 in 2014.

Wave Spell Live music festival will be held August 15-18, 2019 in Belden, California.  Tickets can be purchased at:

https://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1836953

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Editors' Pick

AMCA Breach: 20 Million Victims, 19 Class Actions

[bctt tweet=”AMCA previously reported that there were only 200,000 victims in the recent breach, but their partner labs said there were more than 20 million.” username=”Z6Mag”]

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AMCA previously reported that there were only 200,000 victims in the recent breach but the company, but their partner labs said there were more than 20 million.
AMCA previously reported that there were only 200,000 victims in the recent breach but the company, but their partner labs said there were more than 20 million. Photo: cbgrfx123 | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
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More than 20 million and not 200,000 have fallen victim to a massive data breach that has seen medical clients using the services of healthcare billing company, American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA), to pay for their laboratory tests in different blood testing labs across the U.S. were confirmed by the SEC filings of affected medical institutions amidst the earlier claims of AMCA that there were fewer victims.

The data breach was a result of a cyber attack that aims to phish for financial information from the website of the AMCA. The exposed data belongs to Americans who paid laboratory services at several clinical and blood testing labs and institutions and used the AMCA billing portal.

What happened in the AMCA breach?

Data that were stolen from the victims include their names, phone numbers, dates of birth, home addresses, social security numbers, credit card numbers, and other bank details. The said information was auctioned off by the hacker in several financial hacking forums.

According to DataBreaches.net, the organization who first reported about the incident, AMCA officials, following the notification of the breach confirmed that their system has been compromised and has remained undetected for more than eight months. AMCA corroborated that the breach took place between August 1, 2018, and March 30, 2019.

Notifications have been sent by several of AMCA’s corporate partners and clients to their customers following the disclosure of the security breach that has seen information from millions of Americans compromised.

Related: Hospitals Only Spend 5% Of Its Budget For Cybersecurity Amidst 82% Of Them Reporting To Have Been Attacked

The list of impacted testing laboratories includes Quest Diagnostics (11.9 million patients), LabCorp (7.7 million patients), BioReference Laboratories (Opko Health subsidiary, 422,600 patients), Carecentrix (500,000 patients), and Sunrise Laboratories (undisclosed number of patients).

However, neither the AMCA nor its five clients have yet to notify ALL impacted citizens by the breach making them vulnerable to a lot of cyber crimes and their financial data could be used by anyone who gets hold of the information against the persons of those who still don’t know that their financial information is floating around the internet.

The companies involved in the breach are facing several lawsuits

Appropriately, the lawsuit came into the direction of AMCA, Quest, and LabCorp regarding the incident. More than 11 class-suite actions have been filed against the three companies for their inability to protect consumer data. The 11 lawsuits were recorded at The United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) on June 3. Since then, eight more lawsuits were filed against the companies in federal courts from New Jersey, New York, and California.

According to litigation experts, “If many cases are filed in federal court, any of the lawyers on any of those cases can file a motion with the JPML [..] to centralize the various federal cases that have been filed by sending all of them to a single judge for coordinated pre-trial proceedings.”

“Healthcare companies are especially susceptible to data breaches not only because they aggregate a tremendous amount of important and sensitive data, but also because they tend to be less focused on cybersecurity protection than other industries,” said John Yanchunis of Morgan and Morgan, one of the firms who filed lawsuits against Quest Diagnostics.

“These companies, like Quest Diagnostics, know they are at an increased risk and yet have not taken the proper steps to protect their patients’ data. We will fight for justice on behalf of those impacted by this breach,” added Yanchunis.

Lawmakers are demanding an explanation

The U.S. government, led by attorneys general from Connecticut and Illinois has also opened an investigation on the matter. Furthermore, lawmakers and other politicians have sent letters to the responding companies to ask for an explanation of why an eight-month data breach remained undetected and to demand accountability from them.

In Washington, US Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) also sent a letter to Quest Laboratories demanding the company explain its vetting process for selecting AMCA as a billing vendor, and what requirements a third-party vendor has to pass. Democratic New Jersey Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez also sent letters to AMCA, Quest, and LabCorp, seeking official answers on how a breach of this severity went undetected for eight months.

“The months-long leak leaves sensitive personal and financial information vulnerable in the hands of criminal enterprises. Moreover, such breaches force victims to contend with identity theft that may lead to irreparable harm to their credit reports and financial future,” said the letter sent by the NJ senators.

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