Scientists develop solar cells for windows

Most agree that solar power is the next “big thing” when it comes to energy. With potentially infinite amount of energy that can be generated thanks to the Sun with relatively limited negative impact on the climate change, solar power has been something heavily in development.

However, as it has been until now, solar panels require an excessive amount of space and silicon, which is currently known to be the most efficient material for solar panels, is not transparent. This is a problem as based on energy use distribution, cities consume the most amount of energy but lack the space to generate that electricity based on current capabilities.

However, scientists have now developed a new transparent solar panel based on organic or carbon-based material to be used as window-friendly solar panels. Published in the science journal, Nature Communcications, the panel uses molecules that move photogenerated electrons to the electrodes, called non-fullerene acceptors. These acceptors when incorporated with sulfur, can reach efficiencies of 18% but have a short lifespan.

However, Yongxi Li (first author) have since figured out how to strengthen the non-fullerene acceptors; specifically, it would need to block off UV rays by adding a coating of zinc oxide, a sunscreen component on the side facing the Sun.

Then, the researchers added carbon-based material called IC-SAM as a buffer to solve this issue, and added another buffer layer in a form of fullerene shaped like a soccer ball.

Then they tested this new panel, from 1 sun to 27 suns, and temperatures as high as 65 degrees celsius. Result? These new solar cells would function at 80% efficiency after 30 years based on declination of performance.

Furthermore, these materials can be prepared as liquids, so the manufacturing and transportation costs might be incredibly lower than the current silicon-based solar panels. Thus, it might increase feasibility for wide scale use in large skyscrapers, but also on residential properties.

It is an exciting day for solar power and global energy self-sufficiency.

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Nicholas hits Texas and heads to Louisiana for a Double Dip

Photo captured from Accuweather.com

After strengthening into a Category 1 hurricane on early Tuesday, Nicholas brough the coastal cities of Texas flooding and electricity outage. Nicholas is still pouring heavy rain, strong wind, roaming around Texas, and is heading towards Louisiana.

Now a category 2 hurricane, Nicholas hit Matagorda bay with wind gusts as high as 95 mph and brought 6 to 8 inches of rainfall leading to flooding in east Texas, especially Houston and Galveston areas from Monday to Wednesday. More than 500,000 residents in Texas are without power. It is now heading to Louisiana and the southern part of Mississippi, including areas that are currently struggling to recover from Ida.

Nicholas is currently headed towards the Carolinas and then will climb up the coastline.

These natural disasters have brought severe weather and brought devastation upon the areas as they’ve become a sort of ground zero for severe weather patterns. That being said, the energy company managing the electricity distribution in the gulf coast plans to restore electricity to the heaviest hit area before the end of September.

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Aftermath of the Afghan Exodus and What’s Left

Effective August 31, 2021, the U.S. and NATO forces have officially left Afghanistan, leaving the country back in the Taliban’s hands. Taliban celebrated their victory and return to power.
That being said, the U.S. still has some homework left over. There are still Americans in Afghanistan. Out of the 250,000 Afghan folks that assisted the U.S. forces, more than 100,000 are still in Afghanistan.
During the White House briefing today, a question arose as to the rescue plan for those remaining in Afghanistan after the August 31 deadline. The Chief of Press gave somewhat of an ambiguous answer but promised that anyone who has helped the U.S. that wants to come to the States would be given chances to do so, along with any American still stuck in Afghanistan.
Last Thursday, 13 U.S. service members and hundreds of Afghans were killed when a suicide bomber detonated the bomb at the gate of Kabul International Airport. Pres. Biden has promised that the U.S. would retaliate against ISIS-K for the attack and did so briefly after the attack.
Since the withdrawal began, Pres. Biden has seen a significant drop in approval rating, both in the execution of the withdrawal and in the quick overtaking of Afghanistan by the Taliban despite billions of dollars that had gone into training the Afghan military.
Many Americans are questioning the purpose of the Afghanistan campaign; some are even comparing it to the Vietnam war. The hardest struck are the Veterans of the Afghanistan-Iran conflict, who are now wondering why they went to a 20-year war where the result was the Taliban’s quick return and takeover of Afghanistan.
There are stories of U.S. citizens and green card holders being turned away at Taliban checkpoints and being beaten; it is unclear as to whether all U.S. citizens and green card holders have made it out safely.
With ISIS-K’s attack last Thursday, it is truly questionable as to whether the U.S. even succeeded at wiping out the terrorist threat to the safety of U.S. democracy.

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Al-Qaeda Congratulates the Taliban Day after Taliban’s Denouncement

The Taliban recently submitted an official statement denouncing their links with all Al-Qaeda groups and promised that Al-Qaeda would not be present in Afghanistan or pose a threat to the U.S.; however, a day after this announcement, Al-Qaeda’s South Asian branch congratulated the Taliban on the military victory on a statement on Monday. The announcement was written in Urdu and praised the Taliban for winning against the United States, going as far to claim it as a “highly sacred moment” for Muslims around the world.

Al-Qaeda also called for more to come out to join the jihad in defending themselves against the “invaders.” Al-Qaeda’s letter also explained that while it cannot win against West-backed democratic process, it would win out on the field. Two other groups associated with Al-Qaeda also released messages of support for the Taliban: The Global Islamic Media Front (propaganda organization) and Jama’at Nasr Al-Islam wal Muslimin, Al-Qaeda’s branch in Sahel region of Africa. The Global Islamic Media Front called it vindication of the power of religious conviction, whereas Jama’at Nasr Al-Islam wal Muslimin simply congratulated the Afghan people.

Taliban maintains that there are no Al-Qaeda presence in Afghanistan and that it would not be protecting Al-Qaeda within its territories; however, the United Nations estimates Al-Qaeda has presence in at least 15 provinces, while Al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent has operated under Taliban protection for quite some time.

In the meantime, the Biden administration is being pressured to stay in Afghanistan past the deadline of August 31, 2021 to guarantee that all American soldiers and any vulnerable refugees can come over to the United States.

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US leaving Afghanistan, China staying

As the Taliban closed in on Kabul, China has contacted the Taliban to seek the guarantee of safety for its citizens still in Afghanistan; for example, the Chinese embassy in Kabul has reported that it intends to remain in Kabul and had contacted the Taliban, stating that it was trusting Taliban’s declaration that it would transition the country under an “open, inclusive Islamic nation,” and ensure the safety of Afghan citizens and foreign missions be carried out.

This is in stark contrast to the behaviors of the western powers’ sudden and immediate departure from the country as the Taliban closed in on Kabul. However, one cannot help but wonder how China’s relationship with the Taliban might actually play out, given China’s own behavior towards its Islamic minority in Xinjiang region. According to a 2002 paper by Wang Yaning, lecturer at the Chinese Armed Police Force Academy, more than 400 “separatists” were known to be trained in light and heavy weapons and explosive devices in Taliban training camps.

While the opportunity exists for China to play a bigger role in Afghanistan, a land filled with precious metals that are becoming ever more important. Of course, some argue that continued U.S. presence would have been much easier on Beijing to deal with than the Taliban; nonetheless, China is attempting to build a relationship with Afghanistan while they shuffle in their minority Muslim population into “work camps” reminiscent of concentration camps in various regions in Xinjiang.

China also might have to deal with the influx of Afghani refugees, as some choose to leave their homes to avoid persecution from Taliban rule. There is also the issue of detention camps in Xinjiang and radicalization of Uyghur population with growing anti-Chinese sentiment. However, even that number’s validity is unclear as some argue that Chinese government inflated the numbers to justify its actions.

Depending on what position the Taliban takes as it takes over Afghanistan, China might actually deal have much to deal with on its plate, very far from the only positive outcome, which would be access to rare earth metals while maintaining its control over Xinjiang. It might be that China could be stuck between a rock and hard place, as it loses the safety on the borders over Central Asia, loses out on possible access to precious metals, with extremist radical population seeking independence as it deals with the dissonance’s breaking point in its political system and the economic policies. At the moment, only time will tell.

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Taliban’s Fast Take Over of Afghanistan leads to Conflicts and Confusions

After 9/11 in 2001, under the presidency of G. W. Bush, the United States began the “War on Terror” with the goal of defeating Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The US troops entered Afghanistan to retaliate against terrorists who used several US aircrafts to kill thousands of U.S. citizens and take down the Twin Towers in Manhattan, New York.

By 2011, during the Obama Presidency, the U.S. forces located Osama Bin Laden’s whereabouts as somewhere in Pakistan. Soon after, he was killed during the ambush and buried at sea. Many had hoped that this would end the war in Afghanistan and Iraq; however, the war continued.

The Trump administration promised that it would pull US troops out of the middle east but failed to do so. Now, with Pres. Biden in the White House, US troops are planned to be completely removed by September 2021. However, after two decades of staying in Afghanistan, fighting against the Taliban, and implementing certain US-based policies such as allowing girls to attend school, women to walk about freely, and receiving help from the local Afghanistani citizens, the US is now facing criticism on all front as the Taliban recently overtook Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.

On Monday, during the White House press conference, Pres. Biden accepted the responsibility of the withdrawal of the US military from Afghanistan, adding that he didn’t expect the Taliban to oust the Afghan government so quickly.

In remarks, he stated that “The truth is this did unfold more quickly than we anticipated,” and added, “I am deeply saddened by the facts we now face, but I do not regret my decision.” The Taliban is also using US military equipment in overtaking the Afghanistan territories.

The women have risen up in Afghanistan. Fearful of the return of Taliban’s extremist policies, their tendency to rape and kill women for the tiniest of “errors,” and to protect the safety of the children, women are rising up to fight against the Taliban. While the Taliban has promised that it would not punish any of the US sympathizers, it is not clear whether they would keep their promises and what they would now do, that the country is slowly falling back into their hands.

Although news stations are busily murking up the waters on winning and losing, many Americans, global citizens, and most importantly, the Veterans and US troops, are angry at this result, as it is clear to all but those in power that this was a significant loss in the US “policing power.”

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Thawing Permafrost in Russia Releases Dangerous Levels of Methane

Scientists have been worried about the effects of methane release due to the melting permafrost in Siberia.

The geologists have finally released the results of the study in associated with the release of methane from the permafrost, which had been significantly more than what the scientists had expected, especially from an unexpected source: thawing rock.

The thawing wetlands release microbial methane, while the limestone releases hydrocarbons and gas hydrates. From the Institute of Geosciences at the University of Bonn, studies based on the satellite maps measuring intense methane concentration over 2 elongated areas of limestone of several miles wide and up to 375 miles long in Taymyr peninsula and in northern Siberia, temperatures saw more than 10.8 degrees higher than the norm of 1979-2000. In these spots, there are no vegetations, so when the warming began, the limestone was seen on the surface, and the cracks and pockets in the rock opened up, releasing the trapped methane.

Specifically, the methane increase was 5 percent higher than normal. More alarmingly, the methane release continued until Spring 2021 despite the low temperatures and snow in the region. The carbonates in the outcroppings date back to 541 million years to the Paleozoic era.

Many are worried that this is more of the potentially nasty feedbacks resulting from the climate change. It seems that with the thawing of the previously cold areas that were locked up by ice, comes more areas available for microbial processes that release CO2 and methane, further complicating the picture of climate change and the instability of global climate for human habitation.

At the moment, the biggest sources of methane in the world are global agriculture and fracking leaks in the U.S.; the problem is, it is not clear how much of the permafrost holds the CO2 and methane that will be released.

Apart from methane, another scary news: Polar Portal provided by the Danish Arctic Institute, updated that a massive melting event had occurred recently, which could cover Florida with two inches of water.

Someday, dykes and dams just won’t be enough.

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Joseph to Leave and Dr. Henry to be new PM of Haiti

Since July 7, Haiti’s President, Jovenel Moïse’s assassination, there was a political power struggle between Claude Joseph, the Interim prime minister (PM), and Dr. Ariel Henry (named PM by late President two days before his assassination).

Joseph has since accepted and decided to honor the late president’s wishes. 71-year-old neurosurgeon Dr. Ariel Henry will be the new Prime Minister of Haiti until the new election. According to NPR, “officially taking office as prime minister will be Ariel Henry (71),” as “it was part of the plan and wishes of late President Jovenel Moïse that he should lead a new coalition to be prime minister and form a new government,” said Mathias Pierre, Minister of Elections in Haiti.

Pierre stated that the transfer of power will take place in a public ceremony this Tuesday. Dr. Henry posted a brief address to the nation online Sunday night, saying “unity” and that he would soon announce a consensus government that leads the country until elections can be held to elect a new president.

Henry applauded the Haitian people for maturity in the face of “what could be called a coup d’état,” and that the president’s assassination was “unspeakable,” and “odious and revolting.” Henry has support from foreign powers including the U.S. diplomat, representatives from the United Nations, and the Organization of American States.

“I received calls from certain American diplomats in Haiti,” said Senate Lambart. “Also I received calls from diplomats in the U.S. State Department, who asked me to postpone so we had time to build a larger consensus.” He said that while the majority of Haitians don’t appreciate the postponing of certain Haitian events by foreign powers, Haiti remains influenced by them nonetheless due to its precarious state both as a developing country and as a country dealing with a lot of recovery efforts.

Mr. Joseph said he would now become the foreign minister in Mr. Henry’s cabinet.

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Two Haitian-Americans arrested for assassination of Haiti’s President

Around pre-dawn on July 7, 2021, President Moïse was assassinated, and First Lady Martine was injured during an attack at their residence in Pétion-Ville. Prime Minister Claude Joseph became Acting President and immediately blamed the attack on “a group of unidentified individuals, some of whom spoke in Spanish and English.” Joseph stated that he was now in control of the country.

Four people in total were killed at the scene, and two are still missing. Two people have been arrested as suspects in the assassination. These two suspects that are under custody are Haitian Americans who hid in bushes but were later captured by Haitian police. The crowd yelled out to seek justice for their President’s assassination in protest.

Pres. Moïse had named Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon as the next prime minister just one day before he was assassinated. At the moment, PM Joseph is in charge, rather than Ariel Henry. Although Haiti’s law states that the Supreme Court Chief Justice would replace the President, the Chief Justice had recently passed away from Covid-19.

Haiti had been struggling even more so in recent years, as uncontrolled inflation and gang violence plague the island nation, and people are struggling to secure food and fuel. 60 percent of the population earns less than $2 a day while trying to recover from the 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Pres. Moïse had faced harsh criticism and protest from the populous for trying to open up elections and make the process more democratically friendly. It is not clear who will succeed Moïse’s legacy and what will happen to the power vacuum in Haiti.

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The Ever Given is finally FREE

The Ever Given Cargo vessel, Panama flagged cargo ship, with a Japanese owner Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd.) finally reached the deal on the price of blocking the Suez Canal with the Egyptian authorities on Wednesday.

Under the pandemic, this cargo vessel stalled at the Suez for over 3 months and is finally free to move onto its final destination with help, as a tugboat came to pull the ship out to the Mediterranean Sea. According to AP, “A deal that achieved justice and prioritized both parties’ interests has been reached,” Lt. Gen. Ossama Rabei, head of the Suez Canal said. “It ended a crisis that lasted for more than three months.”

The original price tag was $916 million in compensation but has since lowered to $550 million with a tugboat in its settlement. The compensation will cover the salvage operation, costs of stalled canal traffic, and lost transit fees for the six days the Ever Given had blocked the Suez canal. This vessel was supposed to go to the Dutch port of Rotterdam on March 23 but didn’t make it due to the ship being stuck at the canal after slammed banks of the canal about 3.7miles north of the southern entrance.

Hundreds and thousands of ships behind it were equally stalled, waiting to pass through for at least a week, while some ships turned around to take other routes, like the Cape of Good Hope at South Africa. While the Ever Given ship was stuck in the Suez, some economic crisis concerns such as supply shortage and rising prices were experienced by the global economy, which was already suffering from the pandemic.

The Ever Given cargo vessel was directed to and stayed at the Great Bitter Lake in Egypt for more than 3 months due to the pending settlement issue with Egyptian authority. It is only now that the Ever Given will continue its way home, with $550 million paid to pass through.

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