Hexbyte Glen Cove New research identifies the most important global supply chain linkages thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove New research identifies the most important global supply chain linkages

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

In today’s global economy, production of goods depends on inputs from many trade partners around the world. Companies and governments need a deeper understanding of the global value chain to reduce costs, maintain a profitable production system, and anticipate ripple effects of disruptions in the supply chain.

Applied economists from the University of Illinois have developed a new model for in-depth analysis of global supply chain linkages across countries and industries, providing a rich tool that delivers valuable insights for businesses and policy makers around the world.

“We live in a time when production processes are very much fragmented. In order to end up with one type of good, a car for example, many inputs are assembled abroad and imported from different places around the world. For instance, a car sold by leading U.S. companies may have anywhere from just 2% to 85% of U.S. and Canadian parts in it,” says Sandy Dall’Erba, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics and director of the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory (REAL) at U of I. Dall’Erba is co-author of the study.

“Coordination of the entire supply chain system becomes more and more complicated and sensitive to disruptions at any stage throughout the process. If just one element in your supply chain is missing, it will have a ripple effect on the entire industry,” Dall’Erba notes. “An example of this was the global semiconductor shortage that recently forced U.S. automakers to halt production.”

The researchers started with a widely used economic growth model called shift-share decomposition and expanded its components to include interregional and inter-sectoral linkages. This allows them to identify, for each and each country, if the growth of the sector of interest is due to supply chain linkages at the domestic level versus the international level. The latter can be further split between linkages with trade agreement partners (such as NAFTA for the U.S.) and countries from the rest of the world, highlighting the benefits of trade agreements.

“When we apply our technique to understand the drivers of growth in a particular sector, we not only can say whether it is growing faster or slower than another sector or region, we can also identify other sectors that are important for the growth of this particular sector,” says Claudia Montania, the study’s lead author. Montania was a visiting scholar in REAL when she conducted the study and is currently a researcher at the United Nations Development Accelerator Lab in Asuncion, Paraguay.

Traditional shift-share decomposition includes information about changes in the industry mix and in region-specific features such as taxes, regulations, or characteristics of the labor force. But it does not include connections among different regions or different industry sectors.

“The information provided by the traditional shift-share model is not enough,” Dall’Erba notes. “For example, it would be a mistake to study only the food manufacturing sector in order to know what is happening in that sector, because it obviously depends on grain and livestock production which, in turn, depends on water and fertilizers among other inputs.

“In addition, grains are not always used for food manufacturing but they may end up as fuel. The supply chain of any sector is intertwined with that of many other sectors,” he adds.

In the paper, Dall’Erba and Montania apply their model to country-sector linkages in the European Union, allowing them to compare three levels of connections—domestic, within the EU, and with the rest of the world, and to identify which ones matter most for each sector. The analysis included 35 industrial sectors in 15 countries from 1995 to 2006.

Overall, the researchers found the most important linkages were among EU trade partners; the second-most important were domestic ties; and the least important linkages were with the rest of the world. They emphasize the results vary across sectors and countries. For example, the supply-chain linkages in place to manufacture a French car are different from those that exist for a German car. Their multi-dynamic model can provide detailed, specific information for each country-sector combination as needed for preemptive and tailored planning and policy making.

“Knowing which type of linkages are the most important for your product or your sector can be very useful for , for companies, and for producers, because you can make better plans to achieve the expected growth for your sector,” Montania states. “You can also promote trade and diplomatic relationships in regions where you have strong sectoral linkages.”

Dall’Erba points out this information can help countries and industries protect against supply chain disruptions. Those can occur in many forms, ranging from natural disasters such as drought or earthquake to political upheaval, trade wars, and even the global pandemic. For instance, the extreme disruption airline companies have experienced as demand for air travel dropped in 2020 means both Boeing and Airbus have significantly reduced their production and so have the multiple companies manufacturing airplane components from fuselage to seat belts.

“COVID-19 has pushed several governments to consider bringing back some industries in order to get better control over all the links. However, it is not necessarily a viable option as many companies have already de-located their unskilled labor-intensive production to low-wage countries while maintaining high-skilled workers at home,” Dall’Erba concludes.



More information:
Claudia V. Montanía et al, Multi-dynamic interregional input-output shift-share: model, theory and application, Economic Systems Research (2021). DOI: 10.1080/09535314.2020.1867078

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Researchers use new tool to study stress in root-colonizing bacteria thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Researchers use new tool to study stress in root-colonizing bacteria

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Biological engineering researchers at Utah State are trying to understand how they can leverage the benefits of a plant’s microbiome in the face of adverse agricultural conditions. Credit: Matt Jensen

One solution to agriculture’s many challenges—climate change-induced drought, less arable land, and decreased water quality, to name a few—is to develop smarter fertilizers. Such fertilizers would aim not only to nourish the plant but also to maximize soil bacteria’s positive effects on the plant. Tapping into a plant’s microbiome may be the extra layer of defense crops need to thrive.

In their study published on Dec. 4 in Nature Scientific Reports, researchers at Utah State University analyzed the effects of two abiotic stressors on Pseudomonas chlororaphis O6 (PcO6), a health-promoting bacterium native to the roots of dryland wheat in northern Utah. They found that stress can cause compositional changes in the bacterium’s extracellular structures called outer membrane vesicles, or OMVs. Scientists have long known that release OMVs, but this study asks what factors prompts their release and how the myriad functions of those structures can be leveraged for the crop’s benefit.

Key to this study is understanding that bacteria is not always bad.

“There’s a lot more emphasis into what’s called the ‘microbiome revolution,’ you know, the fact that you carry four pounds of bacteria on your body right now, and it’s not all bad; in fact, it’s mainly all good,” said David Britt, full professor of biological engineering at Utah State. “Plants also have a microbiome, or ‘second genome’, and trying to understand how that microbiome interacts with the environment, and its plant host, is very important.”

Also key to this study is understanding that stress can be good. The bacterium studied here, for example, protects wheat from drought by forming a film around its roots. But by introducing tiny particles of micronutrients, those benefits could be fortified.

“A little bit of stress is necessary,” said Britt. “You can actually prime the whole system to do better under drought.”

Equally important to the findings are the instrument and algorithms used in the study. This is the first time that researchers have used Raman spectroscopy to study OMVs from root-colonizing bacteria. “We could have done a lot of expensive assays to figure out all these different things that we were interested in looking at,” said Elizabeth Vargis, associate professor of biological engineering at USU.

Instead, Vargis explained, using Raman spectroscopy coupled with a enabled them to identify the type of stress the bacteria were experiencing when releasing these OMVs and the stress-dependent compositional changes therein. These observed changes have implications for cell-to-cell communication and bacteria-plant communication, which are essential to better understanding the microbiome.

The study was supported in part by the National Science Foundation, the Utah State University Agriculture Experiment Station and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, but its implications extend beyond agriculture. Raman spectroscopy supported by the machine learning algorithms is a powerful tool that can be used in any biological study. “A cancer cell in your body will release extracellular vesicles before we can often detect the cancer through other methods,” said Britt. “This is a very sensitive technique.”



More information:
Matthew Potter et al, Abiotic stressors impact outer membrane vesicle composition in a beneficial rhizobacterium: Raman spectroscopy characterization, Scientific Reports (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-78357-4

Citation:
Researchers use new tool to study stress in root-colonizing bacteria (2021, February 24)
retrieved 25 February 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-02-tool-stress-root-colonizing-bacteria.html

This document is subject to copyright. Apart from

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Ape escape: Indonesian orangutans airlifted back to the wild thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Ape escape: Indonesian orangutans airlifted back to the wild

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An orangutan in a cage is delivered by helicopter in Central Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia

Ten orangutans have been airlifted back to their natural habitat on Indonesia’s Borneo island, in the first release of the apes into the wild for a year due to the dangers of coronavirus infection.

The animals were flown by helicopter across the island’s dense jungle earlier this month to keep them away from days-long land and sea routes that could expose them to the virus.

Orangutans share 97 percent of humans’ DNA so conservationists have been on high alert for signs of infection. The pandemic has thrown up unprecedented challenges for .

“For an entire year, we have not been able to release orangutans due to the global pandemic,” said Jamartin Sihite, chief executive of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF).

“We have implemented strict health protocols, and introduced mitigation plans to be enacted in the event of an orangutan contracting the virus. The use of a helicopter… helps reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19.”

The fuzzy-haired creatures were sedated with tranquillisers before their flight and were shuttled inside transport cages encased in netting.

At least one of the moon-faced animals banged on its cage’s metal walls as it tried to make sense of the airborne mission.

The apes took a short boat trip after touching down, before arriving at the Bukit Batikap Protection Forest in Central Kalimantan—part of Indonesia’s section of Borneo—where they took to swinging on vines.

Several apes were also released into another forest in East Kalimantan.

Poaching and decimated the Southeast Asian nation’s orangutan population before the coronavirus emerged as another to the critically .

“If an orangutan shows symptoms of respiratory problems, it’s possible that it has been infected with Covid-19,” said Vivi Dwi Santi, a veterinarian with BOSF.

“Also, if one of the staff tests positive… we will conduct tracing on an orangutan that’s been in contact with them.”



© 2021 AFP

Citation:
Ape escape: Indonesian orangutans airlifted back to the wild (2021, February 23)
retrieved 24 February 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-02-ape-indonesian-orangutans-airlifted-wild.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove India's endangered lion prides conquer disease to roam free thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove India’s endangered lion prides conquer disease to roam free

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Asiatic lions were once found widely across southwest Asia

Three years after a deadly virus struck India’s endangered Asiatic lions in their last remaining natural habitat, conservationists are hunting for new homes to help booming prides roam free.

The majestic big cats, slightly smaller than their African cousins and with a fold of skin along their bellies, were once found widely across southwest Asia.

Hunting and human encroachment saw the population plunge to just 20 by 1913, and the lions are now found only in a in India’s western Gujarat state.

Following years of concerted , the lion population in Gir National Park has swelled to nearly 700, according to an official census last year.

But just three years ago, the conservation success looked to be in danger when several lions started to die in one part of the 1,400 square kilometre (545 square mile) forest.

The canine distemper virus—a highly infectious disease—was detected among dozens of the royal beasts, killing at least 11 of them.

“We picked all the lions from the area and isolated them,” Dushyant Vasavada, the park’s chief conservator of forests, told AFP.

Authorities imported special vaccines from overseas and each animal was given three doses each, followed by a booster shot.

Hunting and human encroachment saw the Asiatic lion population plunge to just 20 by 1913

Cattle and dogs living near the park were also inoculated as suspected carriers of the virus.

“We vaccinated the lions in captivity and successfully controlled the disease and no new outbreak has been observed,” Vasavada said, adding that park rangers were still closely monitoring their health.

‘Very thrilling experience’

Lions are a source of pride for India, particularly in Gujarat’s Saurashtra region, where man and beast coexist.

A cattle-rearing tribe lives among the animals in the sanctuary, and it is not uncommon to see a pride of lions crossing a highway in the region as motorists wait and watch.

The king of the jungle is also a major tourist attraction, along with leopards, panthers and other big cats found in the sanctuary.

Around 550,000 people visit the park each year, riding in open-top jeeps as they try to spot the predators prowling among pale yellow deciduous trees.

Three years ago, several lions started to die of canine distemper virus

“It is a very thrilling experience to see the lions from close in the wild,” said forest guide Dinesh Sadiya.

But the 2018 was a reminder that the steady growth in the animal’s population cannot be taken for granted.

New habitats

The lions have low genetic diversity due to their small population size, making them more vulnerable to epidemics.

A 1993 outbreak of canine distemper virus in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park killed a third of its 3,000 lions.

Wildlife biologist Ravi Chellam said that outbreak underscored the need to move a few prides to other sites nearby.

“Translocation is a risk mitigation strategy akin to us getting health or life insurance,” he told AFP.

“If something happens to the population in Gir, there is always going to be an additional free-ranging population of wild lions available.”

Chellam said the sanctuary was also now too small for its steadily growing lion .

“There are far more lions than what Gir can hold… these animals are not static, they are constantly moving outside and interacting with domestic animals and people,” he added.

Efforts to move some lions to other states have been mired in legal wrangles with the state government, which wants to keep the animals in Gujarat.

Authorities have instead proposed finding new homes for some lions in other parts of the state.

In the meantime, rangers keep a close watch on the wandering lions—which sometimes stray into villages and kill livestock—with the help of dozens of imported radio collars.

“If a lion has not moved for 48 hours we can alert our staff,” said Mohan Ram, the park’s deputy conservator of forests.

The tracking collars are fitted around a ‘s neck, helping rangers monitor their health and movements, reduce road and rail accidents, and lessen human-wildlife conflict.



© 2021 AFP

Citation:
India’s endangered lion prides conquer disease to roam free (2021, February 23)
retrieved 24 February 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-02-india-endangered-lion-prides-conquer.html

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part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Stranded whales refloated in New Zealand but concerns remain thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Stranded whales refloated in New Zealand but concerns remain

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Map of New Zealand locating Farewell Spit where dozens of pilot whales were found beached early Monday.

Rescuers successfully refloated 28 pilot whales stranded on a notorious stretch of New Zealand’s coast Tuesday, but the mammals remained close to shore and could beach themselves again, wildlife officials said.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) said the long-finned were part of a pod of around 50 found Monday at Farewell Spit, about 90 kilometres (55 miles) north of the South Island tourist town of Nelson.

Around 40 were pushed out to sea on Monday evening but swam back ashore by the next morning, with around 60 volunteers helping move the 28 survivors back into the water.

“The have been close to shore and it’s uncertain whether they will swim off or possibly re-strand,” a DOC spokeswoman said.

“DOC rangers and volunteers remain on-site ready to respond if the whales start swimming for shore and become stranded again.”

At least 15 of the original pod have died.

Farewell Spit is a 26-kilometre hook of sand that protrudes into the sea at Golden Bay.

It has been the scene of at least 10 pilot whale strandings in the past 15 years.

The most recent was in February 2017, when almost 700 of the mammals beached, resulting in 250 deaths.

Scientists are unclear about why the beach is so deadly. One is that the spit creates a shallow seabed in the bay that interferes with the whales’ sonar navigation systems.



© 2021 AFP

Citation:
Stranded whales refloated in New Zealand but concerns remain (2021, February 23)
retrieved 24 February 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-02-stranded-whales-refloated-zealand.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Power failure: How a winter storm pushed Texas into crisis thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Power failure: How a winter storm pushed Texas into crisis

Hexbyte Glen Cove

In this Feb. 16, 2021, file photo, a woman wrapped in a blanket crosses the street near downtown Dallas. As temperatures plunged and snow and ice whipped the state, much of Texas’ power grid collapsed, followed by its water systems. Tens of millions huddled in frigid homes that slowly grew colder or fled for safety. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

Two days before the storm began, Houston’s chief elected official warned her constituents to prepare as they would for a major hurricane. Many took heed: Texans who could stocked up on food and water, while nonprofits and government agencies set out to help those who couldn’t.

But few foresaw the fiasco that was to come. They could not be prepared.

As temperatures plunged and snow and ice whipped the state, much of Texas’ collapsed, followed by its water systems. Tens of millions huddled in frigid homes that slowly grew colder or fled for safety. And a prideful state, long suspicious of regulation and outside help, was left to seek aid from other states and humanitarian groups as many of its 29 million people grasped for survival.

Images of desperate Texans circulated worldwide. To some, they evoked comparisons to a less wealthy or self-regarding place. To others, they laid bare problems that have long festered.

A week after she warned her county’s nearly 5 million residents about the impending storm, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo was sleeping on an air mattress at the county’s emergency operations center. Her home had been without power for three nights.

“It’s worth asking the question: Who set up this system and who perpetuated it knowing that the right regulation was not in place?” Hidalgo said.

In this Feb. 19, 2021, file photo, water is loaded into cars at a City of Houston water distribution site in Houston. The drive-thru stadium location was setup to provide bottled water to individuals who need water while the city remains on a boil water notice or because they lack water at home due to frozen or broken pipes. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

___

Around 2 a.m. Monday, the full measure of the crisis Texas faced began to be apparent.

Cold and ice had set in the day before, leading to spreading across the state. But standing in the emergency operations center early Monday, Hidalgo and others learned that their local energy provider, CenterPoint Energy, would not be able to “roll” outages between homes as they had been told earlier.

Instead of short intervals of heat, enough to keep their homes safe, residents would have to go without for days on end.

Power outages spiraled through the day Monday, ultimately cutting off more than 4 million people. Grocery stores shut down and hotel rates skyrocketed.

People who fled to the homes of relatives or neighbors had to consider the risks of contracting or spreading coronavirus.

Ashley Archer and her husband decided to take in his best friend at their suburban Dallas home. She is pregnant and has been trying to protect herself from the virus for nearly a year.

In this Feb. 16, 2021, file photo, people wait in a long line to buy groceries at H-E-B in Austin, Texas, during an extreme cold snap and widespread power outage. As temperatures plunged and snow and ice whipped the state, much of Texas’ power grid collapsed, followed by its water systems. Tens of millions huddled in frigid homes that slowly grew colder or fled for safety. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

The friend is “like family,” she said. “We weren’t going to let him freeze at his place.”

Things got worse Tuesday. Thousands of people sought refuge from their freezing homes in warming shelters. Others sat in their cars; dozens were hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning. A woman and her daughter died after running their car inside a garage.

At her Dallas condominium, 51-year-old Stephanie Murdoch layered in blankets, two pairs of pants, two sweaters, three pairs of socks, a hat, and gloves. Her anger grew at the power companies and their apparent lack of preparation.

“We’ve got another blast of snow coming in this evening … and still no clear answers as to why the grids aren’t working better,” she said.

By Wednesday, some started to get their power back, but a new shortage emerged—drinkable water.

In this Feb. 17, 2021, file photo, Juan Guerrlo, center left, waits in line to fill his propane tanks in Houston. Customers had to wait over an hour in the freezing rain to fill their tanks. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

Frozen pipes burst across the state. And the water that did come out of taps was often undrinkable due to dangerously low water pressure levels. At one point, an estimated 13 million people were under a boil-water order, nearly half of Texas’ population.

More than 35 people in Texas have been confirmed dead. That number was expected to rise as roads cleared and relatives and first responders could check on missing loved ones.

Mark Henry, Galveston County’s judge, asked the state early in the week to send a refrigerated truck requested by the local medical examiner, who expected an influx of bodies.

“If they had been honest with us from the beginning, we would have ordered evacuations. But they didn’t tell us that,” he said.

___

The disaster can be traced to mistakes by Texas’ leadership and faults created by decades of opposition to more regulations and preparation.

In this Feb. 19, 2021, file photo, Nancy Wilson boils water in her home in Houston. She does not have full running water as the city remains under a boil water notice and many residents lack water at home due to frozen or broken pipes. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

Basically, the state is an island in the U.S. electrical system.

There is one large grid covering the Eastern half of the country, another for the West, with Texas wedged between them. There is a long and colorful history to how this came to be, but the simplest explanation is that Texas utilities wanted to be free of federal regulation. They accomplished that, going back to the middle of the last century, by avoiding sending power across state lines.

The Texas grid isn’t walled off, but there are only a few, small interconnection points with the Eastern U.S. grid and Mexico. In the past, utility executives have argued that the Texas grid would be less reliable and more vulnerable to blackouts if it were fully connected to the rest of the country – which would make it easier for other states to tap Texas during their own shortages.

In this Feb. 16, 2021, file photo, customers use the light from a cell phone to look in the meat section of a grocery store in Dallas. Even though the store lost power, it was open for cash only sales. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, was created in 1970; it became a more powerful broker over electricity flows after deregulation in this century. In the wake of the storm, it has taken most of the blame from Texas politicians and the public.

Despite efforts by some Republicans to blame clean energy, the failures occurred in every part of the sector. While and solar panels froze, a major nuclear plant lost half of its generation, and there were massive failures in coal, oil, and natural gas. Demand surged, meanwhile, as people accustomed to mild Texas winters turned on their heat.

In 2011, millions of Texans lost power during the Super Bowl, which was played in a Dallas suburb. Two agencies, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, conducted a study on how Texas could “winterize” its energy infrastructure. At the highest end, winterizing 50,000 gas wells would cost an estimated $1.75 billion, the study found.

In this Feb. 16, 2021, file photo, Robert Webster pulls a full canister of propane for sale as customers line up to enter a grocery store in Dallas. As temperatures plunged and snow and ice whipped the state, much of Texas’ power grid collapsed, followed by its water systems. Tens of millions huddled in frigid homes that slowly grew colder or fled for safety. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

Of the 2011 storm, the report said generators and natural gas producers said they had “winterization procedures in place. However, the of many of these generating units and wells suggests that these procedures were either inadequate or were not adequately followed.”

But there was no broad move to winterize equipment. Since then, bills requiring energy producers to hold more power in reserve or ordering a study of how to better prepare for winter failed in the Republican-controlled Texas House.

Texas lawmakers deregulated the energy market in 2002. Supporters say this lowered energy prices statewide, but critics say it gave producers leeway to avoid improvements that might have prevented events like this week’s catastrophe.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has promised multiple investigations of this storm and made ERCOT an “emergency” item for the legislature, which is currently in its biennial session.

  • In this Feb. 15, 2021, file photo, Dan Bryant and his wife Anna huddle by the fire with sons Benny, 3, and Sam, 12 weeks, along with their dog Joey, also wearing two doggie sweaters, with power out and temperatures dropping inside their home after a winter storm brought snow and freezing temperatures to North Texas in Garland, Texas. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News via AP, File)
  • In this Feb. 15, 2021, file photo, traffic is sparse on the snow-covered Interstate 45 near The Woodlands Parkway following an overnight snowfall in The Woodlands, Texas. Temperatures plunged into the teens Monday with light snow and freezing rain. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP, File)
  • In this Feb. 16, 2021, file photo, a man seeking shelter from sup-freezing temperatures prepares his cot at a make-shift warming shelter at Travis Park Methodist Church in San Antonio. As temperatures plunged and snow and ice whipped the state, much of Texas’ power grid collapsed, followed by its water systems. Tens of millions huddled in frigid homes that slowly grew colder or fled for safety. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
  • In this Feb. 17, 2021, file photo, LaDonna collects from a trash container ice cream that had been thrown out because of power outages at a Kroger store in Arlington, Texas. LaDonna said she’s collecting the frozen goods for her neighbors. “I do it because they would do it for me.”, she said. Rolling power outages this week have forced businesses to clear merchandise that needs refrigeration. The power was back Wednesday and the store was open. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, File)
  • In this Feb. 18, 2021, file photo, a woman living on the streets uses blankets to keep warm in downtown San Antonio. Snow, ice and sub-freezing weather continue to wreak havoc on the state’s power grid and utilities. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
  • In this Feb. 18, 2021, file photo, demonstrators stand in front of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s home demanding his resignation in Houston. Cruz has acknowledged that his family vacation to Mexico was “obviously a mistake” as he returned stateside following an uproar over his disappearance during a deadly winter storm. (Marie D. De Jesús/Houston Chronicle via AP, File)
  • In this Feb. 14, 2021, file photo, woman walks through falling snow in San Antonio. As temperatures plunged and snow and ice whipped the state, much of Texas’ power grid collapsed, followed by its water systems. Tens of millions huddled in frigid homes that slowly grew colder or fled for safety. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

“I think there is going to have to be a serious inquiry into why it was, what were the factors that led the grid not to be able to meet the energy needs of Texas,” said Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

Cruz spoke Thursday evening in the yard of his home in Houston’s wealthiest neighborhood, River Oaks. He had cut short a trip to Cancun, Mexico, after images circulated of him waiting at a Houston airport for his flight to the resort town.

At week’s end, as the cold weather began to loosen its grip, the power grid came back online for most Texans. But burst pipes had flooded thousands of homes. Earlier in the week, Abbott had asked plumbers from other states to come to Texas and help.

But fixing pipes is one thing. Fixing a whole state is another.



© 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Citation:
Power failure: How a winter storm pushed Texas into crisis (2021, February 21)
retrieved 23 February 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-02-power-failure-winter-storm-texas.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Frozen pipes, electric woes remain as cold snap eases grip thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Frozen pipes, electric woes remain as cold snap eases grip

Hexbyte Glen Cove

From left, U.S. Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Sylvia Garcia, fill boxes at the Houston Food Bank on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in Texas on Friday, directing federal agencies to help in the recovery. (Elizabeth Conley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Higher temperatures spread across the southern United States on Saturday, bringing relief to a winter-weary region that faces a challenging clean-up and expensive repairs from days of extreme cold and widespread power outages.

In hard-hit Texas, where millions were warned to boil before drinking it, the warm-up was expected to last for several days. The thaw produced burst pipes throughout the region, adding to the list of woes from severe conditions that were blamed for more than 70 deaths.

By Saturday afternoon, the sun had come out in Dallas and temperatures were nearing the 50s. People emerged to walk and jog in residential neighborhoods after days indoors. Many roads had dried out, and patches of snow were melting. Snowmen slumped.

Linda Nguyen woke up in a Dallas hotel room Saturday morning with an assurance she hadn’t had in nearly a week: She and her cat had somewhere to sleep with power and .

Electricity had been restored to her apartment on Wednesday. But when Nguyen arrived home from work the next evening, she found a soaked carpet. A pipe had burst in her bedroom.

“It’s essentially unlivable,” said Nguyen, 27, who works in real estate. “Everything is completely ruined.”

Deaths attributed to the weather include a man at an Abilene health care facility where the lack of water pressure made medical treatment impossible. Officials also reported deaths from hypothermia, including homeless people and those inside buildings with no power or heat. Others died in car accidents on icy roads or from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning.

A pickup sends a wake of snow melt high into the air as the driver plows through a large puddle at Barrow and South 11th streets intersection in Abilene, Texas, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. Temperatures climbed above freezing for the first time since Sunday’s record 14.8-inch snowfall. (Ronald W. Erdrich, The Abilene Reporter-News via AP)

Roughly half the deaths reported so far occurred in Texas, with multiple fatalities also in Tennessee, Kentucky, Oregon and a few other Southern and Midwestern states.

A Tennessee farmer died trying to save two calves from a frozen pond.

President Joe Biden’s office said Saturday he has declared a major disaster in Texas, directing federal agencies to help in the recovery.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, tweeted Saturday that she helped raise more than $3 million toward relief. She was soliciting help for a Houston food bank, one of 12 Texas organizations she said would benefit from the donations.

The storms left more than 300,000 still without power across the country on Saturday, many of them in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

More than 50,000 Oregon electricity customers were among those without power, more than a week after an ice storm ravaged the . Portland General Electric had hoped to have service back to all but 15,000 customers by Friday night. But the utility discovered additional damage in previously inaccessible areas.

City of Austin Water Utility workers Joey Putman, left, and Salvador Tinajero repairs a broken water main near 11th and Red River streets in Austin, Texas, on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021./ (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown ordered the National Guard to go door-to-door in some areas to check on residents’ welfare. At its peak, what was the worst ice storm in 40 years knocked out power to more than 350,000 customers.

In West Virginia, Appalachian Power was working on a list of about 1,500 places that needed repair, as about 44,000 customers in the state remained without electricity after experiencing back-to-back ice storms Feb. 11 and Feb. 15. More than 3,200 workers were attempting to get power back online, their efforts spread across the six most affected counties on Saturday.

In Wayne County, West Virginia, workers had to replace the same pole three times because trees kept falling on it.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott met Saturday with legislators from both parties to discuss energy prices as Texans face massive spikes in their electric bills after wholesale energy prices skyrocketed while power plants were offline.

“We have a responsibility to protect Texans from spikes in their energy bills” resulting from the weather, he said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talks to the media before volunteering at the Houston Food Bank on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in Texas on Friday, directing federal agencies to help in the recovery. (Elizabeth Conley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Water woes added misery for people across the South who went without heat or electricity for days after the ice. Snow storms forced rolling blackouts from Minnesota to Texas.

Robert Tuskey was retrieving tools from the back of his pickup truck Saturday afternoon as he prepared to fix a water line at a friend’s home in Dallas.

“Everything’s been freezing,” Tuskey said. “I even had one in my own house … of course I’m lucky I’m a plumber.”

Tuskey, 49, said his plumbing business has had a stream of calls for help from friends and relatives with burst pipes. “I’m fixing to go help out another family member,” he said. “I know she ain’t got no money at all, but they ain’t got no water at all, and they’re older.”

In Jackson, Mississippi, most of the city of about 161,000 lacked running water, and officials blamed city water mains that are more than 100 years old and not built for freezing weather.

New Braunfels Utility employees help package bottled water at the water station at the New Braunfels Civic/Convention Center in New Braunfels, Texas, on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. The water stations were set up by New Braunfels Utilities and the city of New Braunfels for area residents without water in the wake of outages throughout the city due to unprecedented winter weather events. (Mikala Compton/Herald-Zeitung via AP)

The city was providing water for flushing toilets and drinking. But residents had to pick it up, leaving the elderly and those living on icy roads vulnerable.

Incoming and outgoing passenger flights at Memphis International Airport resumed Saturday after all flights were canceled Friday because of water pressure problems. The issues hadn’t been resolved, but airport officials set up temporary restroom facilities.

Prison rights advocates said some correctional facilities across Louisiana had intermittent electricity and frozen pipes, affecting toilets and showers.

The men who are sick, elderly or being held not in dormitories but in cell blocks—small spaces surrounded by concrete walls—were especially vulnerable, according to Voice of the Experienced, a grassroots organization founded and run by formerly incarcerated people. The group said one man at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center, just south of Baton Rouge, described a thin layer of ice on his walls.

Cammie Maturin said she spoke to men at the 6,300-inmate Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola who were given no extra provisions to protect themselves from the cold.

Brian Bowen drags his friend Eric Andries down a street in Overton Park in Memphis, Tenn., Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. (Jim Weber/Daily Memphian via AP)

“They give them no extra blankets. No extra anything. For them, it’s just been fend for yourself,” said Maturin, president of the nonprofit H.O.P.E. Foundation.

In many areas, water pressure dropped after lines froze and because people left faucets dripping to prevent pipes from icing, authorities said.

As of Saturday, 1,445 in Texas had reported disrupted operations, said Toby Baker executive director of the state Commission on Environmental Quality. Government agencies were using mobile labs and coordinating to speed water testing.

That’s up from 1,300 reporting issues Friday afternoon. But Baker said the number of affected customers had dropped slightly. Most were under boil-water orders, with 156,000 lacking water service entirely.

“It seems like last night we may have seen some stabilization in the water systems across the state,” Baker said.

A lone man walks down the center of a snowy Beale Street in Downtown Memphis, Tenn., Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. (Jim Weber/Daily Memphian via AP)

The Saturday thaw after 11 days of freezing temperatures in Oklahoma City left residents with burst water pipes, inoperable wells and furnaces knocked out of operation by brief power blackouts.

Rhodes College in Memphis said Friday that about 700 residential students were being moved to hotels in the suburbs of Germantown and Collierville after school bathrooms stopped functioning because of low water pressure.

Firefighters extinguished a blaze at a fully occupied 102-room hotel in Killeen, Texas, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of Austin, late Friday. The hotel’s sprinkler system didn’t work because of frozen pipes, authorities said Saturday.

Flames shot from the top of the four-story hotel, and three people required medical care. Displaced guests were taken to a nearby Baptist church.

Texas electrical grid operators said electricity transmission returned to normal after the historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures created a surge in demand that buckled the state’s system.

Smaller outages remained, but Bill Magness, president of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said the grid now can provide power throughout the system.

Abbott ordered an investigation into the failure for a state known as the U.S. energy capital. ERCOT officials have defended their preparations and the decision to begin forced outages Monday as the grid reached breaking point.

The blackouts resulted in at least two lawsuits filed against ERCOT and utilities, including one filed by the family of an 11-year-old boy who is believed to have died from hypothermia. The lawsuits claim ERCOT ignored repeated warnings of weaknesses in the state’s power infrastructure.

Also, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued civil investigative demands to ERCOT and electric utility companies. His investigation will address power outages, emergency plans, energy pricing and more related to the winter storm.



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Frozen pipes, electric woes remain as cold snap eases grip (2021, February 21)
retrieved 23 February 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-02-frozen-pipes-electric-woes-cold.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove New technology enables predictive design of engineered human cells thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove New technology enables predictive design of engineered human cells

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Synthetic biologists achieve a breakthrough in the design of living cells. Credit: Justin Muir

Northwestern University synthetic biologist Joshua Leonard used to build devices when he was a child using electronic kits. Now he and his team have developed a design-driven process that uses parts from a very different kind of toolkit to build complex genetic circuits for cellular engineering.

One of the most exciting frontiers in medicine is the use of living as therapies. Using this approach to treat cancer, for example, many patients have been cured of previously untreatable disease. These advances employ the approaches of synthetic biology, a growing field that blends tools and concepts from biology and engineering.

The new Northwestern technology uses computational modeling to more efficiently identify useful genetic designs before building them in the lab. Faced with myriad possibilities, modeling points researchers to designs that offer real opportunity.

“To engineer a cell, we first encode a desired in a piece of DNA, and that DNA program is then delivered to a human cell to guide its execution of the desired function, such as activating a gene only in response to certain signals in the cell’s environment,” Leonard said. He led a team of researchers from Northwestern in collaboration with Neda Bagheri from the University of Washington for this study.

Leonard is an associate professor of chemical and in the McCormick School of Engineering and a leading faculty member within Northwestern’s Center for Synthetic Biology. His lab is focused on using this kind of programming capability to build therapies such as engineered cells that activate the immune system, to treat cancer.

Bagheri is an associate professor of biology and chemical engineering and a Washington Research Foundation Investigator at the University of Washington Seattle. Her lab uses computational models to better understand—and subsequently control—cell decisions. Leonard and Bagheri co-advised Joseph Muldoon, a recent doctoral student and the paper’s first author.

“Model-guided design has been explored in cell types such as bacteria and yeast, but this approach is relatively new in mammalian cells,” Muldoon said.

The study, in which dozens of genetic circuits were designed and tested, will be published Feb. 19 in the journal Science Advances. Like other technologies, a key feature of this approach is that it is intended to be readily adopted by other bioengineering groups.

To date, it remains difficult and time-consuming to develop genetic programs when relying upon trial and error. It is also challenging to implement biological functions beyond relatively simple ones. The research team used a “toolkit” of genetic parts invented in Leonard’s lab and paired these parts with computational tools for simulating many potential genetic programs before conducting experiments. They found that a wide variety of genetic programs, each of which carries out a desired and useful function in a human cell, can be constructed such that each program works as predicted. Not only that, but the designs worked the first time.

“In my experience, nothing works like that in science; nothing works the first time. We usually spend a lot of time debugging and refining any new genetic design before it works as desired,” Leonard said. “If each design works as expected, we are no longer limited to building by trial and error. Instead, we can spend our time evaluating ideas that might be useful in order to hone in on the really great ideas.”

“Robust representative models can have disruptive scientific and translational impact,” Bagheri added. “This development is just the tip of the iceberg.”

The genetic circuits developed and implemented in this study are also more complex than the previous state of the art. This advance creates the opportunity to engineer cells to perform more sophisticated functions and to make therapies safer and more effective.

“With this new capability, we have taken a big step in being able to truly engineer biology,” Leonard said.

The title of the paper is “Model-guided design of mammalian genetic programs.”



More information:
“Model-guided design of mammalian genetic programs” Science Advances (2021). advances.sciencemag.org/lookup … .1126/sciadv.abe9375

Citation:
New technology enables predictive design of engineered human cells (2021, February 19)
retrieved 23 February 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-02-technology-enables-human-cells.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Bioengineered hybrid muscle fiber for regenerative medicine thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Bioengineered hybrid muscle fiber for regenerative medicine

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Schematic illustration of the 3D skeletal muscle-like bioengineered constructs Credit: Institute for Basic Science

Muscle constitutes the largest organ in humans, accounting for 40% of body mass, and it plays an essential role in maintaining life. Muscle tissue is notable for its unique ability for spontaneous regeneration. However, in serious injuries such as those sustained in car accidents or tumor resection which results in a volumetric muscle loss (VML), the muscle’s ability to recover is greatly diminished. Currently, VML treatments comprise surgical interventions with autologous muscle flaps or grafts accompanied by physical therapy. However, surgical procedures often lead to reduced muscular function, and in some cases result in a complete graft failure. Thus, there is a demand for additional therapeutic options to improve muscle loss recovery.

A promising strategy to improve the functional capacity of the damaged muscle is to induce de novo regeneration of skeletal muscle via the integration of transplanted cells. Diverse types of cells, including (), myoblasts, and , have been used to treat muscle loss. However, invasive muscle biopsies, poor cell availability, and limited long-term maintenance impede clinical translation, where millions to billions of mature cells may be needed to provide therapeutic benefits.

Another important issue is controlling the three-dimensional microenvironment at the injury site to ensure that the transplanted cells properly differentiate into muscle tissues with desirable structures. A variety of natural and synthetic biomaterials have been used to enhance the survival and maturation of transplanted cells while recruiting host cells for muscle regeneration. However, there are unsolved, long-lasting dilemmas in tissue development. Natural scaffolds exhibit high cell recognition and cell binding affinity, but often fail to provide mechanical robustness in large lesions or load-bearing tissues that require long-term mechanical support. In contrast, synthetic scaffolds provide a precisely engineered alternative with tunable mechanical and physical properties, as well as tailored structures and biochemical compositions, but are often hampered by lack of cell recruitment and poor integration with host tissue.

SEM image of the porous PCL scaffold with MEM Credit: Institute for Basic Science

To overcome these challenges, a research team at the Center for Nanomedicine within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) in Seoul, South Korea, Yonsei University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) devised a novel protocol for artificial muscle regeneration. The team achieved effective treatment of VML in a mouse model by employing direct cell reprogramming technology in combination with a natural-synthetic hybrid scaffold.

Direct cell reprogramming, also called direct conversion, is an efficient strategy that provides effective cell therapy because it allows the rapid generation of patient-specific target cells using autologous cells from the tissue biopsy. Fibroblasts are the cells that are commonly found within the connective tissues, and they are extensively involved in wound healing. As the fibroblasts are not terminally differentiated cells, it is possible to turn them into induced myogenic progenitor cells (iMPCs) using several different transcription factors. Herein, this strategy was applied to provide iMPC for engineering.

In order to provide structural support for the proliferating muscle cells, polycaprolactone (PCL), was chosen as a material for the fabrication of a porous scaffold due to its high biocompatibility. While salt-leaching is a widely used method to create porous materials, it is mostly limited to producing closed porous structures. To overcome this limitation, the researchers augmented the conventional salt leaching method with thermal drawing to produce customized PCL fiber scaffolds. This technique facilitated high-throughput fabrication of porous fibers with controlled stiffness, porosity, and dimensions that enable precise tailoring of the scaffolds to the injury sites.

Recovery of the ablated muscle tissue a) 1 week and b-c) 4 weeks after transplantation Credit: Institute for Basic Science

However, the synthetic PCL fiber scaffolds alone do not provide optimal biochemical and local mechanical cues that mimic muscle-specific microenvironment. Hence the construction of a hybrid scaffold was completed through the incorporation of decellularized muscle extracellular matrix (MEM) hydrogel into the PCL structure. Currently, MEM is one of the most widely used natural biomaterials for the treatment of VML in clinical practice. Thus, the researchers believe that hybrid scaffolds engineered with MEM have a huge potential in clinical applications.

The resultant bioengineered muscle fiber constructs showed mechanical stiffness similar to that of muscle tissues and exhibited enhanced muscle differentiation and elongated muscle alignment in vitro. Furthermore, implantation of bioengineered muscle constructs in the VML not only promoted muscle regeneration with increased innervation and angiogenesis but also facilitated the functional recovery of damaged muscles. The research team notes: “The hybrid muscle construct might have guided the responses of exogenously added reprogrammed muscle and infiltrating host cell populations to enhance functional muscle regeneration by orchestrating differentiation, paracrine effect, and constructive remodeling.”

Prof. Cho Seung-Woo from the IBS Center for Nanomedicine and Yonsei University College of Life Science and Biotechnology who led this study notes, “Further studies are required to elucidate the mechanisms of regeneration by our hybrid constructs and to empower the clinical translation of cell-instructive delivery platforms.”



More information:
Yoonhee Jin, Dena Shahriari, Eun Je Jeon, Seongjun Park, Yi Sun Choi, Jonghyeok Back, Hyungsuk Lee, Polina Anikeeva and Seung-Woo Cho. Functional Skeletal Muscle Regeneration with Thermally Drawn Porous Fibers and Reprogrammed Muscle Progenitors for Volumetric Muscle Injury. Advanced Materials, 2021.

Citation:
Bioengineered hybrid muscle fiber for regenerative medicine (2021, February 21)
retrieved 22 February 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-02-bioengineered-hybrid-muscle-fiber-regenerative.html

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part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for in

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Hexbyte Glen Cove NASA’s Mars helicopter reports in

Hexbyte Glen Cove

In this illustration, NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter stands on the Red Planet’s surface as NASA’s Perseverance rover (partially visible on the left) rolls away. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California have received the first status report from the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, which landed Feb. 18, 2021, at Jezero Crater attached to the belly of the agency’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. The downlink, which arrived at 3:30 p.m. PST (6:30 p.m. EST) via a connection through the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, indicates that both the helicopter, which will remain attached to the rover for 30 to 60 days, and its base station (an electrical box on the rover that stores and routes communications between the rotorcraft and Earth) are operating as expected.

“There are two big-ticket items we are looking for in the data: the state of charge of Ingenuity’s batteries as well as confirmation the is operating as designed, commanding heaters to turn off and on to keep the helicopter’s electronics within an expected range,” said Tim Canham, Ingenuity Mars Helicopter operations lead at JPL. “Both appear to be working great. With this positive report, we will move forward with tomorrow’s charge of the helicopter’s batteries.”

Ensuring that Ingenuity has plenty of stored energy aboard to maintain heating and other vital functions while also maintaining optimal battery health is essential to the success of the Mars Helicopter. The one-hour power-up will boost the rotorcraft’s batteries to about 30% of its total capacity. A few days after that, they’ll be charged again to reach 35%, with future charging sessions planned weekly while the helicopter is attached to the . The data downlinked during tomorrow’s charge sessions will be compared to battery-charging sessions done during cruise to Mars to help the team plan future charging sessions.

Like much of the 4-pound (2-kilogram) rotorcraft, the six lithium-ion batteries are off-the-shelf. They currently receive recharges from the rover’s power supply. Once Ingenuity is deployed to Mars’ surface, the helicopter’s batteries will be charged solely by its own solar panel.

After Perseverance deploys Ingenuity to the surface, the helicopter will then have a 30-Martian-day (31-Earth-day) experimental flight test window. If Ingenuity survives its first bone-chilling Martian nights—where temperatures dip as low as minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 90 degrees Celsius) – the team will proceed with the first flight of an aircraft on another world.

If Ingenuity succeeds in taking off and hovering during its first flight, over 90% of the project’s goals will have been achieved. If the rotorcraft lands successfully and remains operable, up to four more flights could be attempted, each one building on the success of the last.

“We are in uncharted territory, but this team is used to that,” said MiMi Aung, project manager for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at JPL. “Just about every milestone from here through the end of our flight demonstration program will be a first, and each has to succeed for us to go on to the next. We’ll enjoy this good news for the moment, but then we have to get back to work.”

Next-generation rotorcraft, the descendants of Ingenuity, could add an aerial dimension to future exploration of the Red Planet. These advanced robotic flying vehicles would offer a unique viewpoint not provided by current orbiters high overhead or by rovers and landers on the ground, providing high-definition images and reconnaissance for robots or humans, and enable access to terrain that is difficult for rovers to reach.



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NASA’s Mars helicopter reports in (2021, February 21)
retrieved 22 February 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-02-nasa-mars-helicopter.html

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