Researchers in the Netherlands have invented a bacteria-infused concrete that is able to patch up its own cracks.
Even such a solid material as concrete is prone to cracking, which inevitably leads to structural degradation and thus limits the service life of constructions. Now, two researchers at Delft Technical University have found an innovative solution for this problem. Microbiologist Henk Jonkers and concrete technologist Eric Schlangen have created a ‘bio-concrete’ with built-in limestone-producing bacteria that make it possible to seal small holes and cracks in the material.
Normally, the concrete has micro-cracks with a width of just a few millimeters, which are in compliance with the concrete quality standards. However, over time, rainwater, which contains dangerous chemicals, leaks in these cracks and corrodes the concrete, as well as the steel that reinforces the structure.
“For durability reasons – in order to improve the service life of the construction – it is important to get these micro-cracks healed,” Dr. Jonkers told BBC News.
The researchers decided to use this corrosive rainwater to their advantage and added so-called alkaliphilic bacteria and a calcium-based feed in a form of granules into the concrete mix. When these granules are activated by water, the bacteria consume the feed and combine calcium with oxygen and carbon dioxide, forming limestone, which patches up the crack.
Thus, constructions exposed to wet conditions, such as highways or tunnels, would be a perfect fit for this innovation.
Lab tests have shown that the bio-concrete was 10 times more effective than other similar methods. According to Dr. Jonkers, the innovative material was able to heal the cracks with a width of 0,5 mm, which is two or three times greater than the usual width allowed according to industrial norms.
Now, the challenge is to launch the large-scale production of the self-healing concrete at reasonable costs.
“Now we are upscaling. We have to produce the self-healing agent in huge quantities and we are starting to do outdoor tests, looking at different constructions, different types of concrete to see if this concept really works in practice,” Dr. Jonkers explained.
The researchers are currently working on the improvement of the self-healing system and reducing the costs. It is expected that the improved version will be ready in six months, while the innovative material will come out in the market in about four years.
Monolith Mysteriously Removed From Utah Desert by ‘Unknown Party’
The shiny metal monolith found in the remote wilderness of southeastern Utah – sparking wild rumors and viral speculation about aliens and UFOs – has gone missing, adding a further twist to the bizarre mysteries surrounding the glistening 10 to 12 foot object.
However, it appears that government officials played no role in the removal of the monolith, which was discovered Nov. 18 by a Utah Department of Public Safety and Division crew during an aerial count of bighorn sheep and subsequently discovered to have been placed in the area at least several years ago.
Ricardo Marino and Sierra Van Meter were among the hundreds of snap-happy visitors hoping to visit the monolith and take some photos for their Instagram accounts at the site located near Canyonlands National Park south of Moab.
However, when the two arrived at the remote location on late Friday night, they found that the monolith had disappeared.
Marino claims to have seen a pickup truck with a large object in its bed driving in the opposite location while they were en route to the location.
Marino and his companion also noticed that someone wrote “Bye B*tch!” and appeared to have urinated on the spot where the piece – which is believed to have been abstract art – formerly stood.
A user on Reddit also visited the spot on early Saturday morning, and said that it was still gone.
In a statement, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said:
“We have received credible reports that the illegally installed structure, referred to as the ‘monolith’ has been removed from Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public lands by an unknown party. The BLM did not remove the structure which is considered private property. We do not investigate crimes involving private property which are handled by the local sheriff’s office. The structure has received international and national attention and we received reports that a person or group removed it on the evening of Nov. 27.”
Since the disappearance of the monolith, visitors have stacked rocks around the site where it once stood, along with a top piece that was left behind by whoever picked up the object.
Officials had warned the public to avoid trekking out to the monolith, which was located in an area that was so remote that people could possibly become stranded while trying to locate it and require a rescue.
In a press release last Monday, the agency warned: “It is illegal to install structures or art without authorization on federally managed public lands, no matter what planet you’re from.”
The tongue-in-cheek warning was a reference to viral buzz surrounding the strange object, with many comparing the monolith to those that trigger massive leaps in human progress in the classic Stanley Kubrick sci-fi film, “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Others bemoaned the discovery of the object in the turbulent year 2020, with some social media users complaining that the discovery of the monolith had triggered their anxiety over worsening fortunes in the year, including a possible extraterrestrial invasion.
“This is the ‘reset’ button for 2020. Can someone please press it quickly?” one social media user joked.
Pelosi’s HEROES Act Would See $350M in Bailout “Aid” Given to Wealthiest Communities in US
One of the most devastating effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic has been its debilitating impact on the economy and the vast changes made to the job market and wealth inequality.
The poor in the United States have grown significantly poorer, with tens of millions of Americans being plunged into unemployment, hunger, and an inability to pay rent. Small businesses deemed nonessential have been forced to shut down or trim operations to a bare minimum, and even major corporations have filed for bankruptcy protection and laid off swathes of their workforce. The effect this has had on low-income communities has been nothing short of ruinous.
In the meantime, attempts to alleviate the suffering of poor Americans have stalled, with federal support for unemployed Americans set to end just days after Christmas just as the United States faces a massive and renewed surge of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.
Amid the crisis, Democrats have rallied behind the updated HEROES Act, a $2.2 trillion bill passed by the House in October, with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi championing the bill as an emergency funding measure that would keep community budgets afloat by injecting $700 billion into state, local and tribal governments.
And while the HEROES Act has been touted as allocating much-needed funds toward first responders and crucial community programs such as library services, public schools, and colleges, auditors at OpenTheBooks found that some $350 million in coronavirus “aid” would go toward the nation’s 50 richest communities listed in the Bloomberg 2020 Richest Places with Heroes Act coronavirus bailouts.
The watchdogs found that the average annual income in these areas ranged from $262,988 in Darnestown, MD, to $525,324 in Atherton, CA – rather astronomical sums for many Americans who are struggling to pay their electrical bills and fill their pantries with basic staple foods.
And while $350 million may seem like a paltry sum in the context of a $2.2 trillion bill, the discovery raises an important question – why should some of the poorest communities that have faced disproportionate impacts from the pandemic essentially subsidize the country’s wealthiest ZIP codes?
The discovery reveals that rather than being the progressive party that truly fights for the interests of the working poor and middle class, the Democrats may be just as beholden to their wealthy constituents as their Republican counterparts are.
Forbes published how much the top 10 wealthiest communities in the United States would receive through their HEROES Act bailouts:
#1. Atherton, CA (income: $525,324/ bailout: $3.8 million) – The exclusive Silicon Valley community has median home prices of $7.5 million and Atherton is home to tech billionaires and major professional athletes like Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, who has a $31 million home in the area. Whatsapp founder Jan Koum also purchased a “mega-compound” in Atherton for $57 million.
#2. Scarsdale, NY (income: $452,041/ bailout: $8.8 million) – Lying just 35 minutes from New York City by train, Scarsdale is the richest town on the East Coast with a median home sales price of $1.2 million. Stars who have bought homes in Scarsdale include Beyoncé and Jay-Z.
#3. Hillsborough, CA (income: $430,681/ bailout: $5.7 million) – Another exclusive Bay Area community, Hillsborough has a median home price of $5.4 million. Local notables include such decidedly un-poor residents like Elon Musk, Jenny Craig and Jimmy Kimmel.
#4. Cherry Hills Village, CO (income: $406,314/ bailout: $3.3 million) – Located 10 miles from Denver, Cherry Hills Village has a median home price of $2 million. Prominent community members include NFL superstars John Elway and Peyton Manning, while diplomatic heavyweights Madeline Albright and Condoleezza Rice graduated from the town’s private schools.
#5. Los Altos Hills, CA (income: $405,073/ bailout: $4.2 million) – Another Silicon Valley enclave, Los Altos Hills has a median home price of $3 million. Tech oligarchs living in the town include Google founder Sergey Brin and Israeli billionaire and tech capitalist Yuri Milner, who purchased a $100 million here.
#6. Short Hills, NJ (income: $388,760/ bailout: $6.5 million) – Considered a suburb of New York City suburb, the community is home to a number of wealthy CEOs, actors, pro sports players, and authors.
#7. Highland Park, TX (income: $365,025/ bailout: $4.5 million) – The richest town in the Lone Star State lies just five miles north of Dallas and has a median home price of $1.5 million. It’s located five miles north of Dallas. Notables include Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and former Texas Gov. Bill Clements.
#8. Glencoe, IL (income: $358,543/ bailout: $4.4 million) – Lying just north of Chicago along Lake Michigan, Glencoe is the richest town in Illinois. Local luminaries include Groupon founder Eric Lefkofsky and author Scott Turow.
#9. Winnetka, IL (income: $353,700/ bailout: $6.1 million) – This village neighboring Glencoe was the site where beloved Hollywood comedies of the ‘80s and ‘90s were filmed, including Home Alone, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Uncle Buck, National Lampoon Christmas, Risky Business, and Breakfast Club.
#10. Darien, CT (income: $352,839/ bailout: $10.7 million) – The posh East Coast town is home to a number of actors, politicians, and CEOs, and teems with at least nine country clubs.
Republicans have rightly been criticized for opposing aid for renters, student debtors, and the unemployed in favor of tax cuts for the ultra-rich and handing over taxpayer funds to transnational corporations. However, Democrats should also be held to account for their attempts to hand over taxpayer funds to those who clearly need it the least during the present crisis.
White Nationalist Appointed To Holocaust Commission Praised Jeffrey Epstein Online
Darren Beattie worked as a White House speechwriter under the Trump administration for a short time before he was fired in 2018 because journalists revealed that he spoke on a panel with a group of white supremacists.
Now he has been rehired by the Trump administration as the head of the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, which is an agency that helps preserve sites related to the Holocaust. He is appointed to a three-year term that will last into the next administration.
The move drew an immediate backlash from Jewish organizations, most notably the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), who issued an open letter to the Trump administration last week calling on them to rescind Beattie’s appointment.
Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO of ADL called the appointment “shocking,” in a statement.
“It is downright shocking that the White House has appointed Darren Beattie, who once attended an event with white supremacists and participated in a panel discussion with white nationalist Peter Brimelow, to serve as a member of a commission specifically created to help preserve the memory of Jewish victims of Nazi atrocities during the Holocaust,” Greenblatt said.
Greenblatt pointed out that Beattie spoke at a white-supremacist conference, where he participated in a discussion with Brimelow, the creator of the anti-immigrant website VDare.
“As we have said before, there is no place in any presidential administration or government commission for an individual who would attend and participate in such well-known racist events. It is absolutely outrageous that someone who has consorted with racists would even be considered for a position on a commission devoted to preserving Holocaust memorials in Europe. We urge the administration to rescind his appointment immediately,” Greenblatt said.
According to the New York Times, Beattie responded to the ADL’s press release, stating that they are a group that protects Democrats, not Jewish people.
“The ADL pretends to be an organization that protects Jews, but it really exists to protect Democrats. As a Jewish Trump supporter, I consider it an honor to be attacked by the far-left ADL and its disgraced leader, Jonathan Greenblatt.” A White House spokesman declined to comment,” Beattie said.
In addition to his affiliations with well-known racists, Beattie is generally a problematic figure.
After Beattie’s appointment was announced, Huffington Post journalist Christopher Mathias went back through the speechwriter’s social media posts to find some disturbing comments. Among them included one post in which he praised Jeffrey Epstein for not being a “p*ssy.”
Earlier this year, Beattie posted a white-nationalist rallying cry on Twitter, writing, “If white people are targeted as a group, they must learn to defend themselves as a group.”
Beattie’s appointment is not set in stone, as it could be reversed by the incoming Biden administration. It could also be rescinded by the Trump administration, but since they were forced to fire him for the scandals in question two years ago, it is unlikely that this appointment was made accidentally or without knowledge of his history or associations.
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