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Scientist Discovers a Way to Turn Prickly Pear Cactus Into Biodegradable Plastic

The biodegradable plastic would either harmlessly dissolve or feed sea creatures.

Elias Marat

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(TMU) —  As the crisis of plastic waste grows, researchers have looked for various ways to cut down on single-use plastics, with many cities and countries across the world seeking to put an end to plastic bags, straws, and other common products in favor of more sustainable, environmentally sound options.

And at the University of the Valley of Atemajac (UNIVA) which lies just outside of Guadalajara in Mexico’s Jalisco state, chemical engineering professor Sandra Pascoe Ortiz has found a novel alternative to plasticone based on nopal, or prickly pear cactus, which has long been a national symbol of Mexico and a crucial staple of the Mexican diet.

Pascoe and her students have devised a way to form a new biodegradable plastic using the juice from the edible cactus’ fruit, known as the tuna, to make the innovative new product.

Pascoe told the BBC:

“It’s a non-toxic product. All the materials we use can be ingested both by humans or animals. And they wouldn’t cause any harm.”

https://twitter.com/bbcworldservice/status/1135948635152244736

The cactus-based plastic is formed out of the juice of the nopal, which contains sugars, pectin, and organic acids that grant it a viscous consistency.

When the juice is blended with a mixture of glycerol, colorants, proteins, natural waxes and decanted to remove the fiber, the formula is then dried out on a hot plate to produce the plastic.

In a separate interview with EFE news agency last year, Pascoe explained how she collaborated with the University of Guadalajara Center for Biological and Agricultural Sciences to measure just how quickly and in which conditions the new biodegradable plastic would break down. Pascoe noted:

“We’ve done very simple degradation tests in the laboratory; for example, we’ve put it in water and we’ve seen that it does break down [but] we still have to do a chemical test to see if it really did completely disintegrate. We’ve also done tests in moist compost-like soil and the material also breaks down.”

The invention could provide a crucial substitute for the commonly used petroleum-based plastics that are choking waterways and ocean life worldwide. Instead, this biodegradable plastic would either harmlessly dissolve or feed sea creatures rather than contributing to their demise.

For the time being, however, the production of the cactus-based plastic is limited to Pascoe’s lab, where she and her students spend time manufacturing the potentially revolutionary substitute.

Her former students have even experimented with using the formula to produce toys for their kids, according to KJZZ.

Michelle Mendoza, who has completed her industrial engineering but continues working with Pascoe, explained:

“My daughter loves to buy toys in the markets and then once she played with it one day, she didn’t want it anymore.”

So Mendoza made strawberry-shaped plastics that excited her daughter for a bit, but then met the same fate as the rest of her toys and were discarded after a day in “the same way,” she laughingly said, noting that at least the nopal-based toys can be dissolved in water after three weeks unlike plastic toys.

Professor Sandra Pascoe Ortiz remains hopeful that one day, her biodegradable plastic can be used commercially, although she doesn’t have plans to turn a huge profit and become some sort of bio-plastic tycoon.

Instead, she hopes to simply continue her work as a researcher and reduce the impact of solid waste in Mexico and around the world.

Maybe I’m too much of an idealist.”

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

News

Adam Toledo: Chicago Police Video Shows 13-Year-Old’s Hands Were Up When Cops Shot Him

Elias Marat

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The Chicago Police Department has released gruesome footage depicting the moment that police officers fatally shot 13-year-old Adam Toledo while his hands were up.

In new bodycam footage from the March 29 slaying, an officer pursuing Toledo can be heard shouting at the young boy to show his “f*cking hands” before shooting him a single time, leaving the boy covered in blood and gasping for air.

While the officer can be heard shouting “drop it,” the teenager appeared to have empty hands when he raised his arms in the moment before he was shot. Video also shows officers discovering a handgun near the scene.

Adam was later pronounced dead at the scene.

The video released Thursday by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability the footage from the officer who shot Toledo, along with 16 other body-warn camera video clips, two recordings of 911 calls, an incident report, and a response report, along with other materials.

The mother of Adam, Elizabeth Toledo, reported the boy one week prior to the shooting, although he did return hom on March 27 before leaving that night, reports WBEZ.  Because Adam did not have any form of identification, the family wasn’t informed by police about his death until March 31. In a GoFundMe page set up by Elizabeth, it was noted that one of Adam’s “dreams was to become a police officer.”

“It weighs heavy on our hearts to be planning our last goodbyes instead of watching him grow up and live out those dreams,” the family noted on the page.

The child has been described as having a “big imagination” and was a fan of children’s shows and zombie movies.

“Adam was really into zombies. And the zombie apocalypse. He even had this zombie apocalypse bag packed and ready to go. Some of his favorite movies and TV shows were ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,’ ‘Ghostbusters,’ ‘SpongeBob SquarePants,’ ‘Toy Story,’ ‘Cars,’ ‘The Walking Dead,’” Elizabeth told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has appealed for calm over the release of the gruesome footage while businesses in the area have boarded up their windows in anticipation of large protests.

“We live in a city that is traumatized by a long history of police violence and misconduct,” the mayor told reporters. “So while we don’t have enough information to be the judge and jury of this particular situation, it is certainly understandable why so many of our residents are feeling that all too familiar surge of outrage and pain.”

The release of the video comes amid continuing anger and grief over the April 11 shooting of Daunte Wright by an officer in a Minneapolis suburb.

It also comes as authorities fear a new wave of protests as communities await the outcome of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis Police officer accused of killing George Floyd last May after kneeling on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds.

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Music

Lil Nas X Song Is #1 In Saudi Arabia, Where Homosexuality Is Illegal Under Sharia Law

Elias Marat

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Lil Nas X has been on top of the world for weeks now, whether it’s living rent-free in the heads of homophobes or topping the Billboard charts after his smash hit “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” dominated playlists.

And ironically, the anthem has become the most-played song in Saudi Arabia, the conservative kingdom where open expressions of same-sex love and even private acts of gay sex are punishable by death.

The song, whose video features the artist giving Satan himself a lap dance have dominated news conversations all over the globe, smashed through to the top of the Billboard Global 200, which ranks top tracks in over 200 territories, on Monday.

According to Apple Music, the song is also leading Saudi Arabia’s top 100 charts as the most-played song in the country.

Apparently overjoyed by the ranking, Lil Nas X tweeted: “WE NUMBER 1 IN SAUDI ARABIA WTF LETS GOOOO”

The autocratic kingdom, which has long been governed by a strict yet uncodified interpretation of Sharia law, has an atrocious record on LGBTQ rights and classifies homosexuality as a variety of extremism. N many circumstances, gay sex is punishable by death.

As the Human Dignity Trust explains, “The punishment varies depending on the circumstances: married men and interfaith sex are punished with the death penalty, while non-married men are punished with flogging. Sharia law principles underpinning the criminal law in Saudi Arabia also impose strict dress codes that impact on the gender expression of transgender people.”

However, this does not mean that Saudi citizens abstain from these “illicit” acts. As one fan wrote on Twitter: Period!!!! Let’s correct the narrative about the Middle East! Shoutout Saudi Arabia.”

However, another user responded: “I lived in Saudi Arabia my whole [life] and if I come out I will literally get stoned and people will be happy about it, saying it’s a ‘narrative’ doesn’t help anyone in the contrary, the middle IS homophobic and change NEEDS to happen.”

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Corruption

Cop Who ‘Accidentally’ Killed Daunte Wright Arrested on 2nd-Degree Manslaughter Charges

Elias Marat

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The former Minnesota cop who shot and killed Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old unarmed Black man, during a traffic stop will now face charges of second-degree manslaughter, a prosecutor announced on Wednesday.

The brutal killing of Wright, which comes amid the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for last May’s killing of George Floyd, threatens to spark a new round of nationwide protests against police brutality and discriminatory policing.

On Wednesday, Washington County Attorney Pete Orput confirmed that Potter, a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center Police Department, would be charged.

On Wednesday morning, agents with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension arrested Potter, the bureau announced in a statement.

Potter was taken into custody in St. Paul and will be booked at Hennepin County jail.

On Tuesday, Potter resigned as demands for justice for Wright reverberated nationwide. Her resignation coincided with that of the city’s former police chief, who claims that Potter accidentally grabbed her Glock when she thought she was reaching for her Taser during the Sunday traffic stop.

Wright’s family and attorneys have rejected the claim that Wright’s death was merely the result of an “accident” and are demanding accountability and sweeping reforms of policing in Minnesota.

Potter could face up to 10 years in prison along with a $20,000 fine, per Minnesota law.

“While we appreciate that the district attorney is pursuing justice for Daunte, no conviction can give the Wright family their loved one back,” said Wright family attorney Ben Crump in a statement.

“This was no accident. This was an intentional, deliberate and unlawful use of force,” the statement added.

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