How 2 gadgets are going to change China and the world

October 14, 2020 by  
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Pollution. Smog. Dirty air. It’s all around us. Sometimes, you can see the pollution hanging in the air. Pollution is a huge public health problem, especially in China. But how big is the problem? There’s no precise answer to that question. At least, not yet. A couple of amazing new inventions may just change that. Many of the world’s most polluted cities are in China. It’s the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world and in 2014, the country far exceeded the national standard for pollution suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO). It isn’t always easy to get accurate pollution ratings through standard methods employed by the Chinese government. Enter the Pollution Ranger. This little machine is a self-powered air quality monitor that can be placed on cars to collect data on air pollution everywhere it goes. Related: How clean is your indoor air? The Pollution Ranger is designed for full transparency of data. Anyone can use a smartphone app to access the data gathered by the device. You can use the information to check out pollution levels in your current location, or use the app to find data on a place you’re going to. Want to know how much pollution is the air? Smog Shade makes it easier to visually see exactly how polluted the air around you is. This is an installation with a sleek, circular design that shows air quality in real-time. The shade darkens to indicate how much pollution is in the air; the darker the shade is, the more polluted the air is. The Smog Shade is accessible via app as well. The app allows users to view overall city pollution or pollution levels in specific locations all over the city. Both of these inventions were designed by Huachen Xin. Xin spoke about some of the applications for the gadgets, saying, “People have the right to know the genuine air quality [around them]…based on this data, they could choose whether they need to move in or out of where they currently live. City managers could also use the data as clues to find out realtime pollution, for example, or track illegal emissions during the night.” According to Xin, the Chinese government doesn’t always offer precise pollution measurements. Sometimes, air quality monitors are purposefully put in areas where the air is cleaner. Monitors installed in parks, on rooftops and on islands in the middle of lakes aren’t getting accurate readings of city streets and neighborhoods. One study published in Lancet estimated that as many as 1.24 million deaths in China in the year 2017 were caused by air pollution. That’s a huge public health risk, and that’s why accurate pollution monitoring matters. Putting pollution data in the hands of everyone could have another effect — it shows people the reality of pollution. Hard data and accurate numbers are pretty hard to ignore. Xin hopes that real-time pollution data will encourage people to change their daily habits and help work toward reducing pollution levels. If the first step to improving air quality is raising awareness of how bad the air actually is, then devices like the Pollution Ranger and Smog Shade are going to change the world … and not a moment too soon. + Huachen Xin Images via Huachen Xin

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How 2 gadgets are going to change China and the world

ON-A wants to renature Barcelona by greening the Camp Nou stadium

August 26, 2020 by  
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In a bid to bring greater green space to Barcelona, local architecture firm ON-A has proposed converting the city’s Camp Nou football stadium into a 26-hectare forested park. Dubbed Nou Parc, the design blankets the Camp Nou stadium and surrounding facilities with an undulating green roof strong enough to support a forest of trees. The architects estimate that the resulting park space could produce 15,000 kilograms of oxygen per day and absorb 25,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide daily. Opened in 1957 as the home stadium of FC Barcelona, the 99,354-seat Camp Nou football stadium is the largest stadium in Spain and Europe. According to the architects, less than 10% of the stadium grounds have been allocated to green space, which results in an urban heat island effect and also creates a divide between the neighborhood of Les Corts from the University Area. When the stadium is not in use for sports events or private functions, the massive area is typically disused.  Related: ZHA gets the green light for world’s first all-timber soccer stadium in England The Nou Parc proposal aims to bring greater functionality to Camp Nou with a publicly accessible green and leisure space that would not only better link the nearby neighborhoods but also improve urban air quality . The new park would be created in collaboration with tech company Verdtical so that the undulating green roof blanketing the buildings would be controlled by sensors and artificial intelligence capable of minimizing water consumption. Rainwater would also be collected and stored in two onsite lakes for irrigation of the park.  “Renaturing cities and gaining quality space for citizens is no longer just an interesting idea, it is a necessity,” said Jordi Fernández, co-founder of ON-A Architecture. “We are aware that cities must be re-naturalized, and that green provides unquestionable benefits for health, but the issue is not only green, the debate revolves around blue as well: the water . We cannot be green if that implies an excessive use of resources. The technology for the control of water consumption has come a long way and allows us to innovate and optimize green areas in urban spaces.” + ON-A Images via ON-A

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ON-A wants to renature Barcelona by greening the Camp Nou stadium

Proposed UK law pushes accountability for Amazon products

August 26, 2020 by  
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People around the world have watched with increasing horror as Amazon forest destruction has accelerated in recent years. Now,  U.K.  officials have proposed a law to make large companies operating within the U.K. comply with environmental laws and show where their products originate.  The new law would cover  soy , rubber, cocoa, palm oil and other commodities. According to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) survey, 67% of British consumers want more government oversight on companies, and 81% think businesses should be more transparent about product origin. Related: Indigenous Amazon communities use tech to protect the forest “This consultation is a welcome first step in the fight to tackle the loss of our planet’s irreplaceable natural wonders such as the Amazon and in the pursuit of supply chains free from products that contribute to deforestation ,” said Ruth Chambers from the Greener UK coalition. Additionally, this law could require businesses to publish purchasing details for commodities like soy and  palm oil , to prove the resources were produced following local laws protecting natural ecosystems. Failure to do so would incur fines. Critics say the plan needs ironing out, especially regarding details on penalties. Though delayed, the COP26 climate conference will occur in Glasgow in 2021. In the meantime, the U.K. works to show international leadership on environmental and climate concerns, including deforestation. About 10% of the world’s known species make their home in the  Amazon , which is the largest rainforest and river basin in the world. Already 20% of the Amazon biome has disappeared, and matters are getting worse. At the current rate of deforestation, WWF estimates that more than a quarter of the Amazon biome will be treeless by 2030. The new U.K.  law  remains in the planning stage. Emphasizing the law’s significance, Chambers said, “The evidence linking deforestation with climate change, biodiversity loss and the spread of zoonotic diseases is compelling. A new law is an important part of the solution and is urgently needed.” Via BBC and WWF Image via Pexels

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Proposed UK law pushes accountability for Amazon products

Brooklyn Home Company unveils 25 new passive houses in NYC

July 13, 2020 by  
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When it comes to New York City , quality Passive House projects — outside of large-scale developments and apartment complexes — are becoming more and more prevalent. Passive house construction is now showing up in family homes throughout the city, which is made clear with the addition of 25 passive houses by The Brooklyn Home Company. The city has made strides by adding measures to support greener construction, such as the Climate Mobilization Act, which requires buildings over 25,000 square feet to cut emissions by 40% before 2030 and over 80% before 2050. However, construction continues to be a large contributor to emissions in New York. Individual developers, like The Brooklyn Home Company, have taken matters into their own hands by implementing eco-friendly building techniques and net-zero projects themselves. Related: Certified Passive House in New York generates all of its own energy The firm recently unveiled 25 new eco-conscious homes in New York City. The houses are split between two Brooklyn projects in Greenwood Heights and South Slope, and they are the company’s first homes to use Passive House principles in construction. Passive House principles maintain a standard for energy efficiency by increasing the building’s insulation and introducing streams of fresh, filtered air into the interior environment. It not only improves the air quality for residents, but this concept also reduces the building’s ecological footprint and lowers heating and cooling bills when compared to typical homes. “Filtered fresh air is clinically proven to improve cognitive brain function (fresh air makes you smarter), reduce transmission of illness between family members and improve the quality of life for those suffering from asthma and allergies,” the company explained. “Lastly, Passive House, due to the required continuous insulation and triple pane European windows, makes your home quieter.” The firm upgraded its HVAC system to integrate Energy Recovery Ventilation, a system which extracts stale air and replaces it with filtered fresh air . Sustainable building has become a top priority to the company, which has invested in Passive House design training and construction education as well as hired a Passive House consultant to oversee home builds. Additionally, the firm’s architectural project manager is a Certified Passive House Designer. + The Brooklyn Home Company Photography by Travis Mark via The Brooklyn Home Company

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How clean is your indoor air?

April 17, 2020 by  
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The 2020 Coronavirus /COVID-19 pandemic has created a new normal for much of the population — a daily routine that now means moving from the bedroom to the living room instead of battling a commute and logging hours in an office building. With the kids tackling remote learning and you working from home, the carbon dioxide to oxygen ratio under your roof is likely different than it was just a few months ago. After all, there’s no doubt that an increase in the number of people at home affects the overall indoor air quality (IAQ) within the space. With that in mind, it’s important to give some consideration to the quality of the air you and your family are breathing in, both during the pandemic and in subsequent times. There is more to the equation than just making sure there is adequate oxygen in the building. Pollutants can float through your home, moving from one space to another. These pollutants can lead to allergic reactions and breathing difficulties. There might be other issues that go unnoticed too. Yet according to a study from Broan-NuTone, only 44% of Americans worry about their home’s indoor air quality. Related: Awair tracks 5 elements of air quality in your home In fact, there are many often overlooked clues that point to less than optimal IAQ. While you might recognize an increase in dust, most Americans don’t associate lingering food odors or allergy symptoms with poor IAQ. When evaluating IAQ, homeowners and renters should consider how effectively vent fans remove odors, smoke and moisture from the space. Lingering food scents, foggy mirrors and windows, and mold are all strong indicators that vent fans are not doing their job. Air filters, both stand-alone units and those inside the furnace’s forced-air system, are important tools in the battle for fresh indoor air.  This era of physical distancing has us spending more time indoors, and each activity, such as cleaning and cooking, can contribute to the toxins in your air. Then there is dust, dirt and pet dander thrown into the mix. Depending on the daily activities of your household, the number of people in the space, and the products you use, your IAQ might suffer more than you think. So it’s vital that you choose appliances and products carefully. Chemical pollution, for example, can be enough to exacerbate respiratory conditions. That means harsh cleaners can actually make you sick while you work to eliminate germs, especially if the fumes are left lingering around. It is imperative that filters in the furnace, air conditioner, air filter and grease filter above the stove are all washed or replaced frequently. In addition to cleaning filters, having effective exhaust fans is essential to maintaining healthy IAQ. To test exhaust fans, hold a ribbon of tissue near the fan while it is on. The appliance should suck the tissue inward. If it doesn’t, it is time for a replacement. In order for your bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans to benefit the air quality , they should be turned on before cooking or bathing and left on for at least 10 minutes afterward. The environmentalist in you might be screaming to turn off the vent, but the creation of mildew and other irritants isn’t a viable trade-off for the energy you’ll use running the fan a bit longer.  If you find that your home has excessive moisture in the form of damp towels, musty smells and foggy mirrors you may want to use absorption products such as Dri-Z-Air. The pellets are easy to refill and are versatile enough for the RV, garage or closet. A dehumidifier is another option to consider when moisture levels are high. While you know that dust is unsightly, it’s also a breeding ground for dust mites. Make sure to wipe or vacuum away dust often and clean linens in hot water frequently to keep allergens in commonly problematic areas low. To test your indoor air quality, you can buy an air quality monitor that ranges in price from $75 to around $800. You can also have your IAQ measured for you or purchase a VOC sensor or carbon dioxide meter to take your own readings. For safety, your home should also be equipped with a radon detector and a carbon monoxide detector. If any measure of IAQ shows the need for improvement, open windows and run fans to get air circulating. The recent indoor air quality study by Broan-Nutone highlights the need to spend a little time evaluating your indoor environment . According to the results, while the majority of people feel indoor air quality is exceptionally important since many of us spend more time inside than out, a fairly low number of respondents knew how to improve it by using appliances correctly. Remember that plants are another way to naturally filter pollutants out of the air. Outside of the standard household concerns, older homes should always be tested for asbestos, mold, lead -based paints and other toxic substances that could be lurking unnoticed. + Broan-NuTone Images via Broan-Nutone 

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How clean is your indoor air?

How clean is your indoor air?

April 17, 2020 by  
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The 2020 Coronavirus /COVID-19 pandemic has created a new normal for much of the population — a daily routine that now means moving from the bedroom to the living room instead of battling a commute and logging hours in an office building. With the kids tackling remote learning and you working from home, the carbon dioxide to oxygen ratio under your roof is likely different than it was just a few months ago. After all, there’s no doubt that an increase in the number of people at home affects the overall indoor air quality (IAQ) within the space. With that in mind, it’s important to give some consideration to the quality of the air you and your family are breathing in, both during the pandemic and in subsequent times. There is more to the equation than just making sure there is adequate oxygen in the building. Pollutants can float through your home, moving from one space to another. These pollutants can lead to allergic reactions and breathing difficulties. There might be other issues that go unnoticed too. Yet according to a study from Broan-NuTone, only 44% of Americans worry about their home’s indoor air quality. Related: Awair tracks 5 elements of air quality in your home In fact, there are many often overlooked clues that point to less than optimal IAQ. While you might recognize an increase in dust, most Americans don’t associate lingering food odors or allergy symptoms with poor IAQ. When evaluating IAQ, homeowners and renters should consider how effectively vent fans remove odors, smoke and moisture from the space. Lingering food scents, foggy mirrors and windows, and mold are all strong indicators that vent fans are not doing their job. Air filters, both stand-alone units and those inside the furnace’s forced-air system, are important tools in the battle for fresh indoor air.  This era of physical distancing has us spending more time indoors, and each activity, such as cleaning and cooking, can contribute to the toxins in your air. Then there is dust, dirt and pet dander thrown into the mix. Depending on the daily activities of your household, the number of people in the space, and the products you use, your IAQ might suffer more than you think. So it’s vital that you choose appliances and products carefully. Chemical pollution, for example, can be enough to exacerbate respiratory conditions. That means harsh cleaners can actually make you sick while you work to eliminate germs, especially if the fumes are left lingering around. It is imperative that filters in the furnace, air conditioner, air filter and grease filter above the stove are all washed or replaced frequently. In addition to cleaning filters, having effective exhaust fans is essential to maintaining healthy IAQ. To test exhaust fans, hold a ribbon of tissue near the fan while it is on. The appliance should suck the tissue inward. If it doesn’t, it is time for a replacement. In order for your bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans to benefit the air quality , they should be turned on before cooking or bathing and left on for at least 10 minutes afterward. The environmentalist in you might be screaming to turn off the vent, but the creation of mildew and other irritants isn’t a viable trade-off for the energy you’ll use running the fan a bit longer.  If you find that your home has excessive moisture in the form of damp towels, musty smells and foggy mirrors you may want to use absorption products such as Dri-Z-Air. The pellets are easy to refill and are versatile enough for the RV, garage or closet. A dehumidifier is another option to consider when moisture levels are high. While you know that dust is unsightly, it’s also a breeding ground for dust mites. Make sure to wipe or vacuum away dust often and clean linens in hot water frequently to keep allergens in commonly problematic areas low. To test your indoor air quality, you can buy an air quality monitor that ranges in price from $75 to around $800. You can also have your IAQ measured for you or purchase a VOC sensor or carbon dioxide meter to take your own readings. For safety, your home should also be equipped with a radon detector and a carbon monoxide detector. If any measure of IAQ shows the need for improvement, open windows and run fans to get air circulating. The recent indoor air quality study by Broan-Nutone highlights the need to spend a little time evaluating your indoor environment . According to the results, while the majority of people feel indoor air quality is exceptionally important since many of us spend more time inside than out, a fairly low number of respondents knew how to improve it by using appliances correctly. Remember that plants are another way to naturally filter pollutants out of the air. Outside of the standard household concerns, older homes should always be tested for asbestos, mold, lead -based paints and other toxic substances that could be lurking unnoticed. + Broan-NuTone Images via Broan-Nutone 

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How clean is your indoor air?

Giant wooden pavilion in Taiwan is a birdhouse for humans

April 17, 2020 by  
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Designed by the creative minds behind Taipei-based Phoebe Says Wow Architects , the Boolean Birdhouse is a massive pavilion built in the middle of a national park in Taiwan. Set up for an annual flower show, the wooden building features five individual pitched roofs that jut up into the sky to create a welcoming place for birds to perch, while humans can also find a bit of respite inside the birdhouse. Located in Taiwan’s Yangmingshan National Park, the wooden building gives visitors to an annual flower show a place to rest while enjoying the incredible views. In particular, the region is known for its feathered wildlife, which inspired the architects to create a pavilion that was geared toward giving native birds a place to perch while giving visitors a chance to be close to nature. Related: Dramatically twisted timber weaves together in the Steampunk pavilion Spanning almost 900 square feet, the building includes five separate volumes with soaring pitched roofs. Clad in cypress shingles, the natural timber exterior and bark finishes are reminiscent of small, ubiquitous birdhouses found in backyards around the world. In fact, there are several bird-sized openings found throughout the exterior facade to let birds come in and out with ease. Although the structure is “for the birds ,” it’s also designed to be a resting place for human visitors of the flower show. Guests who enter the wooden pavilion through one of the dual entrances will find a dark interior filled with oddly-shaped spaces. The interior features a public area for exhibitions, but there are also several private corner nooks and curved crannies where people can take a moment to meditate or just take a quiet break. + Phoebe Says Wow Architects Via ArchDaily Photography by Hey!Cheese, OS Studio and Shihhwa Hung via Phoebe Says Wow Architects

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Giant wooden pavilion in Taiwan is a birdhouse for humans

Archivist releases shirts made from recycled hotel sheets

April 17, 2020 by  
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Sometimes, being disruptive is fashionable. As for Archivist, a sustainable clothing company, its business plan counts on being disruptive in the name of fashion and corporate responsibility. With this mission, Archivist has found a unique yet luxurious inspiration for a new line of tailored shirts — hotel sheets. The story begins with a query on what happens to hotel sheets once they are discarded. The answer inspired a campaign to turn used bedding into sustainable fashion. As such, Archivist is the brainchild of partners Eugenie Haitsma and Johannes Offerhaus, Dutch designers who reached out to European hotels and quickly received 200 kilos of fine Egyptian cotton sheets. Although they were worn enough to be pulled from the hotels, these high-quality sheets still has plenty of performance life left. Archivist moved quickly to disrupt the flow of hotel sheets to landfills, instead creating a men’s leisure shirt and a women’s work shirt, two initial releases in what the company hopes to be a growing line of sustainable clothing options. Related: This biodegradable T-shirt is made from trees and algae The duo is busy reaching out to additional luxury hotels across Europe in a plan that helps them source materials while also extending an eco-friendly way for the hotels to get rid of old sheets. Transport distances are short because the hotels, located across Europe, send linens directly to a workshop near Bucharest. There, a family-run atelier thoroughly washes, cuts and manufactures the material into shirts. While there may be minor defects in the fabric, the team aims to minimize cut-off waste. Equally important, the shirt designs are timeless, offering a long lifespan instead of the disposable nature of trendy items. The men’s leisure shirt, made from 100% upcycled hotel linens, is offered in three sizes, which the company describes as flowy and oversized. The women’s work shirt is also created from sheets, but the design incorporates a subtle stripe woven into the fabric for a classic look that can be paired with a suit, slacks or jeans. It is also available in three sizes. Both shirts ship free within the EU and are priced at 150 euros (about $164). If you happen to get a shirt with a defect, Archivist will happily send you free patches. + Archivist Photography by Arturo Bamboo via Archivist

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Archivist releases shirts made from recycled hotel sheets

Awair tracks 5 elements of air quality in your home

April 14, 2020 by  
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For San Francisco-based company Awair, “knowledge is power” when it comes to air quality. Co-founder Ronald Ro first had the idea for a smart air quality monitor when he discovered his daughter’s eczema complications were linked to the air around her. After pairing up with friend Kevin Cho to find new ways to observe the air quality in his home, Awair was born. Awair’s Element air quality monitor provides advanced technology in a stylish, compact device that blends seamlessly into any room design. The handy gadget can track five different factors affecting air quality: temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide , volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and microscopic particulate matter (PM2.5). By using the free Awair app, consumers can learn more about their overall air quality, manage individual sensor readings, track changes in their environment and even turn on alerts for sudden changes. Perhaps most important, the app also provides personalized tips to help users reduce their indoor pollution levels. Related: Futuristic air-purifying masks combat air pollution with innovative fan system Though air quality often goes unnoticed inside the household, the air we breathe at home can impact productivity, comfort and even long-term health . Most of us understand the dangers of unhealthy levels of carbon dioxide, and many home smoke alarms already come equipped with CO2 detectors. Awair goes above and beyond by also measuring VOCs, which are toxic chemicals emitted by common building materials, furniture and cleaning products, as well as PM2.5, the microscopic particulate matter that can emerge from cooking, wildfire smoke or vehicle traffic. Temperature can affect sleep quality and immune system functions, while humidity can aggravate conditions such as asthma and eczema, according to the company. The Element models also have the capability to integrate into a smart home ecosystem, including Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Ecobee Thermostat and Sensi Smart Thermostat. With Ecobee and Sensi Smart Thermostats systems, the Element will respond automatically to air quality measurements and turn on the home’s HVAC system if it detects a certain level of air pollution . + Awair Images via Awair

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Awair tracks 5 elements of air quality in your home

Los Angeles air quality improves amid pandemic

April 10, 2020 by  
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There is one positive impact of the tragic coronavirus pandemic — Los Angeles is experiencing its longest stretch of good air quality since 1995. On April 7, Swiss air quality technology company IQAir cited LA as one of the cities with the cleanest air in the world. While the notoriously smoggy city is on lockdown, highway traffic has dropped 80% throughout the entire state of California, which probably accounts for much of the improvement. “With less cars on the road and less emissions coming from those tailpipes, it’s not surprising to see improvements in the air quality overall,” Yifang Zhu, professor of environmental health science at UCLA, told CNN. Zhu and her team of scientists measured a 20% overall improvement in southern California’s air quality between March 16 and April 6. They also recorded a 40% drop in PM 2.5 levels. This microscopic air pollutant is linked to both respiratory and cardiovascular problems, especially in the very young and very old. A recently released Harvard study linked PM 2.5 exposure to an increased likelihood of dying from COVID-19 . Related: Coronavirus and its impact on carbon emissions All over the world, scientists are noting that cleaner air is a side effect of the pandemic . Satellite images have revealed much lower concentrations of nitrogen dioxide over industrial areas of Europe and Asia in the past six weeks. The drops in nitrogen dioxide levels over Wuhan — a city of 11 million — and the factory-filled Po Valley of northern Italy are especially striking. “It’s quite unprecedented,” Vincent-Henri Peuch, director of the Copernicus Atmosphere Service, told the Guardian. “In the past, we have seen big variations for a day or so because of weather. But no signal on emissions that has lasted so long.” Alas, when lockdowns lift and Angelenos return to the highways, the pollution will likely return. Zhu hopes that this glimpse of clear, blue skies will inspire people to work for better air quality post-pandemic. “From the society level, I think we need to think really hard about how to bring about a more sustainable world, where technologies and policies come together to bring us cleaner energy ,” she said. “So that the air that we’re breathing will stay as clean as what we’re breathing today.” Via CNN and The Guardian Image by Joseph Ngabo

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