Connect with us

News

“Vertical forest” apartment complex in China transforms into mosquito-plagued jungle hell

A pioneering effort to turn apartment buildings into a lush vertical forest has transformed into something more like a green hell teeming with mosquitos.

Elias Marat

Published

on

(TMU) – The problem of improving air quality in heavily-polluted cities across the world is one of the big challenges faced by urban planners, especially in the 21st century as greenhouse gas emissions climb and temperatures increase across the world.

However, a pioneering effort to transform high-rise apartment buildings into a lush “vertical forest” has transformed what was meant to be a green paradise into something more like a green hell teeming with some of the most irritating and obnoxious insects known to mankind.

Residents at the experimental green Qiyi City Forest Garden housing complex in Chengdu, China, were hoping for a respite from the concrete jungle by moving into the manicured green space of the vertical forest.

The developer quickly managed to sell all 826 apartment earlier this year, but the ultramodern eight-tower complex touted as an “eco-paradise” now resembles a post-apocalyptic jungle nightmare – complete with incessant swarms of mosquitoes buzzing and nibbling away at residents’ health and sanity.

Because of this monstrous turn of events, only a small number of families have decided to brave the bug infestation and move into the complex. So far, 20 families have moved into the sprawling complex, as is clear from the pruned plants and outdoor furniture that adorns several balconies, along with the lights switched on inside the units.

But with plants sprawling between neglected balconies and branches twisting across the railings of towers and merging into one another, the 2018 development is quickly reverting to the primordial nature of the forest.

The idea of vertical forests was a concept developed by Italian architect Stefano Boeri, who designed the stunning vertical garden Bosco Verticale in Milan in 2014 before bringing the concept to polluted cities across the world, from Albania to Egypt and the Netherlands.

The general idea is to balance mother nature and biodiversity with the needs of the urban population by covering the buildings in balconies planted with species appropriate to local climate conditions, while maintaining a variety of heights and blooming seasons so that the buildings remain aesthetically pleasing year-round.

Plants on all levels of the building also provide natural shading and an improvement to residents’ air quality. The plants would also contribute to the ecological balance of the surrounding urban center, absorbing several tons of carbon dioxide while contributing even more oxygen annually.

The same fantastic idea has been used for dozens of other concepts, including Koichi Takada’s Urban Forest and the futuristic Cloud Corridor skyscrapers planned for Los Angeles.

However, the problem at Chengdu’s Qiyi City Forest Garden doesn’t mean that the concept itself is flawed – instead, this could just be a problem of the property managers neglecting the basic needs of the building itself, according to landscape architect and New York Botanical Garden instructor Daryl Beyers.

“Just because it looks cool, absorbs CO2, is a noise buffer, and offers psychological benefits, doesn’t mean you don’t have to do it properly,” Beyers told Curbed. “And I think [the developers] rushed into it. They didn’t think about the maintenance.”

“You can’t have a garden without a gardener,” he added. “They [developers] were touting it as a manicured garden outside on your deck. If it’s manicured, someone has to do the manicuring.”

Additionally, the humid climate in the Chengdu region also provides the perfect habitat for thirsty mosquitoes to thrive, while the overgrown plants also provide much-needed shade to the pesky insects.

Indeed, the lesson here is that sometimes nature wins – especially when people, or in this case landlords, slack off and ignore their responsibilities.

“It is sort of apocalyptic, and that’s what nature will do to all our cities if everything goes to hell,” Beyers said. “You see it in the movies. Plants will do those things.”

News

Oxycontin producer Purdue Pharma pleads guilty to criminal charges for role in opiate crisis

Avatar

Published

on

OxyContin producer Purdue Pharma will plead guilty to three federal criminal charges for the role that it played in the ongoing opiate crisis. On Wednesday, Justice Department officials said that the company will be pleading guilty as part of a settlement worth over $8 billion. 

In the settlement, Purdue will pay $225 million directly to the government and will give up an additional $2 billion to the government through criminal asset forfeiture. The company also faces a $3.54 billion criminal fine, but this money may not be collected due to bankruptcy. Purdue also owes $2.8 billion in damages to cover lawsuits that victims have brought against the company.

The company will be pleading guilty to three federal charges, including conspiracy to defraud the United States and violating federal anti-kickback laws. The company admitted to pushing doctors to prescribe more opioids than they would have otherwise.

As part of the plea deal, the company will admit it violated federal law and “knowingly and intentionally conspired and agreed with others to aid and abet” the dispensing of medication from doctors “without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional practice,” according to a copy of the plea agreement obtained by the Associated Press.

These charges are separate from the investigation against the Sacklers, the wealthy family that owns the company. They are still the target of an ongoing criminal investigation.

As a part of the agreement, Purdue will admit that it obstructed the Drug Enforcement Administration by reporting false and misleading information about the drug and its addictive properties.

The settlement promises to change the nature of Purue Pharma for good, by turning it into a public benefit company, which means that it will be governed by a trust that prioritizes public health instead of profit. Furthermore, the Sackler family would not have any involvement in the new company.

In a recent letter, 38 Democratic members of Congress and other advocates wrote to Attorney General William Barr asking him to hold the company fully accountable for their actions, without cutting them any deals.

“Millions of American families impacted by the opioid epidemic are looking to you and your Department for justice. Justice for the sleepless nights spent worrying about sons and daughters trapped in the grip of substance use disorder, justice for the jobs lost and the lives ruined, and justice for the lives of loved ones lost to overdoses. If the only practical consequence of your Department’s investigation is that a handful of billionaires are made slightly less rich, we fear that the American people will lose faith in the ability of the Department to provide accountability and equal justice under the law,” the letter stated.

Purdue is the first opioid maker to plead guilty to serious criminal charges because they were the largest and most profitable, but there are many other companies in the industry who took part in the same actions, and many of those companies are currently under investigation for their involvement in the opiate epidemic.

Continue Reading

Bizarre

Scientists Discover New Organ In The Center Of The Human Head

Avatar

Published

on

Medical researchers have made a shocking historical anatomical discovery by finding a new organ located at the center of the human head that has been lurking there all along.

The finding was reported in Radiotherapy and Oncology. Researchers discovered the organ by accident thanks to doctors in the Netherlands, who were examining 100 patients for prostate cancer while performing an advanced type of scan called PSMA PET/CT. This diagnostic process when paired with injections of radioactive glucose highlights tumors in the body.

However, in this case, the researchers found something else entirely, nestled in the rear of the nasopharynx. The nasopharynx functions as an airway in the respiratory system. Also contained within the nasopharynx are the adenoids, or pharyngeal tonsils.

The new organ looks to be a mysterious set of salivary glands that have been hidden inside the human head. How this was discovered in 2020, missed for centuries is unknown, but until now, the human body has had three major salivary glands — parotid, submandibular, and sublingual glands.

“People have three sets of large salivary glands, but not there,” explains radiation oncologist Wouter Vogel from the Netherlands Cancer Institute. “As far as we knew, the only salivary or mucous glands in the nasopharynx are microscopically small, and up to 1,000 are evenly spread out throughout the mucosa. So, imagine our surprise when we found these.”

Now, we can add a fourth located behind the nose and above the palate, close to the center of the human head.

“The two new areas that lit up turned out to have other characteristics of salivary glands as well,said one of the first author of the study, oral surgeon Matthijs Valstar from the University of Amsterdam.

“We call them tubarial glands, referring to their anatomical location [above the torus tubarius].”

These tubarial glands were seen to exist in the PSMA PET/CT scans of all the 100 patients, revealing visible draining duct openings towards the nasopharyngeal wall.

“To our knowledge, this structure did not fit prior anatomical descriptions,” the researchers explained in their paper.

It’s worth noting that there are an additional approximately 1,000 minor salivary glands situated throughout the oral cavity and the digestive tract. Although, these are not seen without a microscope according to Scientific Alert.

The researchers suggest the organ is found at a poorly accessible anatomical location under the skull base, which explains why it has been missed all of these centuries. The medical professionals note that it’s possible they may have noticed the duct openings, but it’s unlikely they would have realized the structures were apart of a larger gland system. But thanks to newer technology allowing advanced PSMA-PET/CT imaging techniques, seeing the macroscopical organ was possible.

The study needs to be replicated and validated. However, pathologist said that the team may be on to something and if its real it could change the way we view diseases in that region of the skull.

“It seems like they may be onto something,” pathologist Valerie Fitzhugh from Rutgers University, who wasn’t involved with the study, told The New York Times.

“If it’s real, it could change the way we look at disease in this region.”

Continue Reading

News

California city begins Guaranteed Basic Income program

Elias Marat

Published

on

The Southern California city of Compton is launching a pilot program that aims to provide a basic income to 800 of its low-income residents, with zero strings attached.

Dubbed the Compton Pledge, the guaranteed income program will begin distributing free cash to 800 residents of the city in Los Angeles County for a period of two years. Compton Mayor Aja Brown has said that the ambitious program is the largest of its kind in for any city in the U.S.

The majority Black and Latino city is just the latest in a growing list of cities across the country, and the world, that is experimenting with new ways to put money in residents’ hands give the grave economic calamity caused by the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

“I recognized that there’s a need for additional income, especially with the pandemic resulting in record high numbers of unemployment throughout the entire country,” the mayor told the Los Angeles Times. “This is a great opportunity to address inequalities for Black and brown people and also additional opportunities for upward mobility.”

The guaranteed income program is also meant to “challenge the racial and economic injustice plaguing both welfare programs and economic systems,” according to a statement released by the Compton Pledge on Monday.

“People in our community are going through tough times, and I know that guaranteed income could give people a moment to navigate their situation, and have some breathing room to go back to school, explore a new career path, spend time with their children, or improve their mental and emotional wellbeing,” Brown said in the statement. “Ensuring all people are able to live with dignity is something we should all strive for in America.”

Roughly 1 in 5 residents of Compton live below the poverty line – roughly double that of the national average – according to census data. The plight of Compton residents has only been compounded by the ongoing health emergency, which has raised the city’s unemployment rate to 21.9 percent.

The Compton Pledge has already raised over $2.5 million in private donations through the Fund for Guaranteed Income, a charity headed by the family of L.A. Times owner and billionaire bioscientist and transplant surgeon Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong.

Under the program, randomly selected families from a vetted group of low-income residents will receive at least a few hundred dollars on a recurring basis along with tools helping to advise them on their finances. Parents and guardians may receive more, while anonymous researchers will track the spending habits and well-being of participants.

A representative board including nonprofit organizations like My Brother’s Keeper and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) will also advise the Compton Pledge on how best to reach communities on the margins.

The program is aiming to include a representative sample of 68 percent of Latino and 30 percent of Black residents in Compton, along with those typically left out of federal and state welfare programs, such as formerly incarcerated residents and undocumented immigrants.

The program isn’t the first of its kind in the Golden State, where opulent displays of wealth often exist side-by-side with extreme poverty.

In 2019, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs launched the first guaranteed income program in the country, known as the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, which gave 125 Stockton residents a $500 payment for 18 months.

The concept of distributing free money to citizens without strings attached has gained popularity in recent times, due in no small part to the economic impact of the pandemic.

Political parties and figures both on the traditional left and the right have raised the demand for guaranteed income or Universal Basic Income (UBI), with some of its strongest proponents include tech oligarchs and venture capitalists like Peter Thiel, Marc Andreesen, and Jack Dorsey.

Supporters of the plan argue that inequality would be reduced by basic income and it would provide an added layer of financial security for certain people. Supporters of the plan, such as former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, also suggest that with jobs in myriad industries slated to be rendered obsolete by automation and computerization, a universal basic income is required to prevent a deeper humanitarian and financial crisis.

Critics on the left have suggested that basic income is a Trojan horse that would be a vehicle for dismantling what little remains of the welfare state, offering the “paying people for being alive” stipend in exchange for austerity and the destruction of social safety nets that protect the most vulnerable members of society and offer a small barrier to extreme inequality.

On the right, however, opponents have claimed that the idea is far too expensive and would dis-incentivize people from seeking work and would be tantamount to subsidizing poor people’s substance abuse habits or reckless spending on “temptation goods.”

However, decades of research has shown that most people on such programs continue to work after receiving the transfers, while those who work less spend more with their families.

With many countries experiencing a free fall in jobs numbers – as well as sharply declining consumer demand and household spending – the idea of guaranteed basic income has gained popularity unseen since the idea saw a surge of interest following the 2008 financial crash.

In the South American nation of Colombia, politicians across the political spectrum have urged the government to introduce an Emergency Basic Income to mitigate the damage of the COVID-19 pandemic. The municipal government of Bogota under Green Party Mayor Claudia Lopez was the first city in the South American nation to offer basic income to vulnerable households struggling to feed themselves amid the lockdown. The plan also included integrating 581,000 poor households into the banking system, according to a press release from the City of Bogota.

While the Compton Pledge is beginning as a far more modest program, community advocates are hopeful that the program can be a success.

“Guaranteed income is an urgent and necessary strategy for addressing the economic realities of racial injustice,” said Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors.

Proponents also hope that this can become a trend that sparks a nationwide system of direct, recurring payments to vulnerable families.

“Guaranteed income will afford people the dignity of an income floor and agency to make choices for themselves,” said Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs.

Poverty stems from a lack of cash, not a lack of character,” he added.

Continue Reading

Trending