Saturday, June 23, 2018

Electrical Charge of Water

Water Can Be very Dead, Electrically

University of Manchester – June 21, 2018 -- In a study published in Science this week, the researchers describe the dielectric properties of water that is only a few molecules thick. Such water was previously predicted to exhibit a reduced electric response but it remained unknown by how much. The new study shows that atomically thin layers of water near solid surfaces do not respond to an electric field, a finding that has very important implications for understanding of many phenomena where water is involved, including life of course.

Water molecules are small and seemingly simple but nonetheless exhibit rather complex properties, many of which remain poorly understood. Among them is the ability of water to dissolve substances much better than any other solvent. Water is therefore known as the "universal" solvent.

Behind this solvation ability is the fact that water molecules behave like tiny dipoles with two opposite charges placed at the ends of the molecule. This makes it easy for water to dissolve salts and sugars whereas substances like oils are repelled. The dipolar properties of water—or, as scientists call it, the polarizability—also play an important role in the structuring of the molecules of life, proteins and nucleic acids. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that for many decades scientists tried to figure out how water behaves on a microscopic scale, in the immediate vicinity of other substances, solid surfaces and macromolecules.

The quest has finally succeeded due to collaborative efforts of the groups of Dr. Laura Fumagalli and Dr. Andre Geim at the National Graphene Institute, the University of Manchester. They combined two recently developed technologies. First, the researchers created special channels that were down to several angstroms in size and accommodated only a few layers of water. Second, they introduced a technique capable to probe water's dielectric constant inside such nanochannels.

Fumagalli who is the lead author and developed the measurement technique explained "The existence of a low-polarizable water layer near surfaces is central to many scientific disciplines, and its nature has been much debated for almost a century. To resolve the debate, it was necessary to develop new tools to controllably measure the dielectric constant on a very small scale. We have done this."

The researchers have found that the electric response of the confined water is not only suppressed but completely absent. In other words, the water inside nanochannels was electrically dead with its dipoles immobilized and unable to screen an external field. This is in contrast to bulk water whose molecules easily align along an electric field. The thickness of the dead layer was found to be less than one nanometer, two to three molecules thick.

Fumagalli commented "Water covers every surface around us. This layer is only a few atoms thick. We don't see it but it is there and important. Until now, this surface water was presumed to behave differently from the normal water famous for its anomalously high dielectric constant. How different, it was not known. It was a surprise to find that the dielectric constant of interfacial water was anomalous, too. However its polarizability is anomalously low rather than anomalously high."

Geim added "This anomaly is not just an academic curiosity but has clear implications for many fields and for life sciences, in particular. Our results can help to improve the understanding of the role of water in technological processes, and why it is so crucial for life. Electric interactions with water molecules play an important role in shaping biological molecules such as proteins. One can probably claim that interfacial water shapes the life as we know it, both literally and figuratively."

Friday, June 22, 2018

Flexible Brain Neurons

MIT Scientists Discover Fundamental Rule of Brain Plasticity

Our brains are famously flexible, or “plastic,” because neurons can do new things by forging new or stronger connections with other neurons. But if some connections strengthen, neuroscientists have reasoned, neurons must compensate lest they become overwhelmed with input. In a new study in Science, researchers at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT demonstrate for the first time how this balance is struck: when one connection, called a synapse, strengthens, immediately neighboring synapses weaken based on the action of a crucial protein called Arc.

The Picower Institute at MIT – June 22, 2018 -- Senior author Mriganka Sur said he was excited but not surprised that his team discovered a simple, fundamental rule at the core of such a complex system as the brain, where 100 billion neurons each have thousands of ever-changing synapses. He likens it to how a massive school of fish can suddenly change direction, en masse, so long as the lead fish turns and every other fish obeys the simple rule of following the fish right in front of it.

“Collective behaviors of complex systems always have simple rules,” said Sur, Paul E. and Lilah Newton Professor of Neuroscience in the Picower Institute and the department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT. “When one synapse goes up, within 50 micrometers there is a decrease in the strength of other synapses using a well-defined molecular mechanism.”

This finding, he said, provides an explanation of how synaptic strengthening and weakening combine in neurons to produce plasticity.

Multiple manipulations

Though the rule they found was simple, the experiments that revealed it were not. As they worked to activate plasticity in the visual cortex of mice and then track how synapses changed to make that happen, lead authors Sami El-Boustani and Jacque Pak Kan Ip, postdoctoral researchers in Sur’s lab, accomplished several firsts.

In one key experiment, they invoked plasticity by changing a neuron’s “receptive field,” or the patch of the visual field it responds to. Neurons receive input through synapses on little spines of their branch-like dendrites. To change a neuron’s receptive field, the scientists pinpointed the exact spine on the relevant dendrite of the neuron, and then closely monitored changes in its synapses as they showed the mouse a target in a particular place on a screen that differed from the neuron’s original receptive field. Whenever the target was in the new receptive field position they wanted to induce, they reinforced the neuron’s response by flashing a blue light inside the mouse’s visual cortex, instigating extra activity just like another neuron might. The neuron had been genetically engineered to be activated by light flashes, a technique called “optogenetics.”

The researchers did this over and over. Because the light stimulation correlated with each appearance of the target in the new position in the mouse’s vision, this caused the neuron to strengthen a particular synapse on the spine, encoding the new receptive field.

“I think it’s quite amazing that we are able to reprogram single neurons in the intact brain and witness in the living tissue the diversity of molecular mechanisms that allows these cells to integrate new functions through synaptic plasticity,” El-Boustani said.

As the synapse for the new receptive field grew, the researchers could see under the two-photon microscope that nearby synapses also shrank. They did not observe these changes in experimental control neurons that lacked the optogenetic stimulation.

But then they went further to confirm their findings. Because synapses are so tiny, they are near the limit of the resolution of light microscopy. So after the experiments the team dissected the brain tissues containing the dendrites of manipulated and control neurons and shipped them to co-authors at the Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne in Switzerland. They performed a specialized, higher-resolution, 3D electron microscope imaging, confirming that the structural differences seen under the two-photon microscope were valid.

“This is the longest length of dendrite ever reconstructed after being imaged in vivo,” said Sur, who also directs the Simons Center for the Social Brain at MIT.

Of course, reprogramming a mouse’s genetically engineered neuron with flashes of light is an unnatural manipulation, so the team did another more classic “monocular deprivation” experiment in which they temporarily closed one eye of a mouse. When that happens synapses in neurons related to the closed eye weaken and synapses related to the still open eye strengthen. Then when they reopened the previously closed eye, the synapses rearrange again. They tracked that action, too, and saw that as synapses strengthen, their immediate neighbors would weaken to compensate.

Solving the mystery of the Arc

Having seen the new rule in effect, the researchers were still eager to understand how neurons obey it. They used a chemical tag to watch how key “AMPA” receptors changed in the synapses and saw that synaptic enlargement and strengthening correlated with more AMPA receptor expression while shrinking and weakening correlated with less AMPA receptor expression.

The protein Arc regulates AMPA receptor expression, so the team realized they had to track Arc to fully understand what was going on. The problem, Sur said, is that no one had ever done that before in the brain of a live, behaving animal. So the team reached out to co-authors at the Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine and the University of Tokyo, who invented a chemical tag that could do so.

Using the tag, the team could see that the strengthening synapses were surrounded with weakened synapses that had enriched Arc expression. Synapses with reduced amount of Arc were able to express more AMPA receptors whereas increased Arc in neighboring spines caused those synapses to express less AMPA receptors.

“We think Arc maintains a balance of synaptic resources,” Ip said. “If something goes up, something must go down. That’s the major role of Arc.”

Sur said the study therefore solves a mystery of Arc: No one before had understood why Arc seemed to be upregulated in dendrites undergoing synaptic plasticity, even though it acts to weaken synapses, but now the answer was clear. Strengthening synapses increase Arc to weaken their neighbors.

Sur added that the rule helps explain how learning and memory might work at the individual neuron level because it shows how a neuron adjusts to the repeated simulation of another.

Ania Majewska, associate professor of neuroscience in the Center for Visual Science at the University of Rochester, said the study’s advanced methods allowed the team to achieve and important set of new results.

“Because of the difficulty in monitoring and manipulating the tiny and numerous synapses that connect neurons, most studies have been carried out in reduced preparations with artificial stimuli making it unclear how the mechanisms identified are actually implemented in the complicated circuits that function inside a brain reacting to its environment,” Majewska said. “This new study from the Sur lab has great impact because it combines cutting edge imaging and genetic tools to beautifully monitor the function of individual synapses inside a brain that is responding to behaviorally-relevant stimuli that elicit changes in neuronal responses.

“Given the results from this tour de force approach, we can now say that, in the intact brain, synapses that lie in close proximity to one another interact during changes in circuit function through a mechanism that involves a molecular cascade in which arc plays a critical role,” she said. “This information allows us to understand not only how neuronal circuits develop and remodel in a physiological setting, but provides clues that will be important in identifying how these processes go awry in various neurological diseases.”

In addition to Sur, El-Boustani and Ip, the paper’s other authors are Vincent Breton-Provencher, Ghraham Knott, Hiroyuki Okuno and Haruhiko Bito.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Third World Clean Water

The Seed that Could Bring Water to Millions
BME/ChemE’s Bob Tilton and Todd Przybycien have refined the requirements of a process that turns easily accessible sand and plant materials into a cheap and effective water filtration tool.

June 13, 2018 -- According to the United Nations, 2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services. The majority live in developing nations.

Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering Professors Bob Tilton and Todd Przybycien recently co-authored a paper with Ph.D. students Brittany Nordmark and Toni Bechtel, and alumnus John Riley, further refining a process that could soon help provide clean water to many in water-scarce regions. The process, created by Tilton’s former student and co-author Stephanie Velegol, uses sand and plant materials readily available in many developing nations to create a cheap and effective water filtration medium, termed “f-sand.”

“F-sand” uses proteins from the Moringa oleifera plant, a tree native to India that grows well in tropical and subtropical climates. The tree is cultivated for food and natural oils, and the seeds are already used for a type of rudimentary water purification. However, this traditional means of purification leaves behind high amounts of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) from the seeds, allowing bacteria to regrow after just 24 hours. This leaves only a short window in which the water is drinkable.

Velegol, who is now a professor of chemical engineering at Penn State University, had the idea to combine this method of water purification with sand filtration methods common in developing areas. By extracting the seed proteins and adsorbing (adhering) them to the surface of silica particles, the principal component of sand, she created f-sand. F-sand both kills microorganisms and reduces turbidity, adhering to particulate and organic matter. These undesirable contaminants and DOC can then be washed out, leaving the water clean for longer, and the f-sand ready for reuse.

While the basic process was proven and effective, there were still many questions surrounding f-sand’s creation and use—questions Tilton and Przybycien resolved to answer.

Would isolating certain proteins from the M. oleifera seeds increase f-sand’s effectiveness? Are the fatty acids and oils found in the seeds important to the adsorption process? What effect would water conditions have? What concentration of proteins is necessary to create an effective product?

The answers to these questions could have big implications on the future of f-sand.


The seed of M. oleifera contains at least eight different proteins. Separating these proteins, a process known as fractionation, would introduce another step to the process. Prior to their research, the authors theorized that isolating certain proteins might provide a more efficient finished product.

However, through the course of testing, Tilton and Przybycien found that this was not the case. Fractionating the proteins had little discernible effect on the proteins’ ability to adsorb to the silica particles, meaning this step was unnecessary to the f-sand creation process.

The finding that fractionation is unnecessary is particularly advantageous to the resource-scarce scenario in which f-sand is intended to be utilized. Leaving this step out of the process helps cut costs, lower processing requirements, and simplify the overall process.

Fatty acids

One of the major reasons M. oleifera is cultivated currently is for the fatty acids and oils found in the seeds. These are extracted and sold commercially. Tilton and Przybycien were interested to know if these fatty acids had an effect on the protein adsorption process as well.

They found that much like fractionation, removing the fatty acids had little effect on the ability of the proteins to adsorb. This finding also has beneficial implications for those wishing to implement this process in developing regions. Since the presence or absence of fatty acids in the seeds has little effect on the creation or function of f-sand, people in the region can remove and sell the commercially valuable oil, and still be able to extract the proteins from the remaining seeds for water filtration.


Another parameter of the f-sand manufacturing process that Tilton and Przybycien tested was the concentration of seed proteins needed to create an effective product. The necessary concentration has a major impact on the amount of seeds required, which in turn has a direct effect on overall efficiency and cost effectiveness.

The key to achieving the proper concentration is ensuring that there are enough positively charged proteins to overcome the negative charge of the silica particles to which they are attached, creating a net positive charge. This positive charge is crucial to attract the negatively charged organic matter, particulates, and microbes contaminating the water.

This relates to another potential improvement to drinking water treatment investigated by Tilton, Przybycien, and Nordmark in a separate publication. In this project, they used seed proteins to coagulate contaminants in the water prior to f-sand filtration. This also relies on controlling the charge of the contaminants, which coagulate when they are neutralized. Applying too much protein can over-charge the contaminants and inhibit coagulation.

“There’s kind of a sweet spot in the middle,” says Tilton, “and it lies in the details of how the different proteins in these seed protein mixtures compete with each other for adsorption to the surface, which tended to broaden that sweet spot.”

This broad range of concentrations means that not only can water treatment processes be created at relatively low concentrations, thereby conserving materials, but that there is little risk of accidentally causing water contamination by overshooting the concentration. In areas where exact measurements may be difficult to make, this is crucial.

Water hardness

Water hardness refers to the amount of dissolved minerals in the water. Although labs often use deionized water, in a process meant to be applied across a range of real world environments, researchers have to prepare for both soft and hard water conditions.

Tilton and Przybycien found that proteins were able to adsorb well to the silica particles, and to coagulate suspended contaminants, in both soft and hard water conditions. This means that the process could potentially be viable across a wide array of regions, regardless of water hardness.

The bottom line is that this supports the idea that the simpler technology might be the better one.

Bob Tilton, Chevron Professor of Chemical Engineering, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

Overall, the conclusions that Tilton, Przybycien, and their fellow authors were able to reach have major benefits for those in developing countries looking for a cheap and easily accessible form of water purification. Their work puts this novel innovation one step closer to the field, helping to forge the path that may one day see f-sand deployed in communities across the developing world. They’ve shown that the f-sand manufacturing process displays a high degree of flexibility, as it is able to work at a range of water conditions and protein concentrations without requiring the presence of fatty acids or a need for fractionation.

“It’s an area where complexity could lead to failure—the more complex it is, the more ways something could go wrong,” says Tilton. “I think the bottom line is that this supports the idea that the simpler technology might be the better one.”

Tilton and Przybycien recently published a paper on this research, "Moringa oleifera Seed Protein Adsorption to Silica: Effects of Water Hardness, Fractionation, and Fatty Acid Extraction," in ACS Langmuir.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Medium Sized Black Hole

University of New Hampshire Researcher Captures Best Ever Evidence of Rare Black Hole

DURHAM, N.H. –June 18, 2018 -- Scientists have been able to prove the existence of small black holes and those that are super-massive but the existence of an elusive type of black hole, known as intermediate-mass black holes (IMBHs) is hotly debated. New research coming out of the Space Science Center at the University of New Hampshire shows the strongest evidence to date that this middle-of-the-road black hole exists, by serendipitously capturing one in action devouring an encountering star.

"We feel very lucky to have spotted this object with a significant amount of high quality data, which helps pinpoint the mass of the black hole and understand the nature of this spectacular event," says Dacheng Lin, a research assistant professor at UNH’s Space Science Center and the study’s lead author. "Earlier research, including our own work, saw similar events, but they were either caught too late or were too far away."

In their study, published in Nature Astronomy, researchers used satellite imaging to detect for the first time this significant telltale sign of activity. They found an enormous multiwavelength radiation flare from the outskirts of a distant galaxy. The brightness of the flare decayed over time exactly as expected by a star disrupting, or being devoured, by the black hole. In this case, the star was disrupted in October 2003 and the radiation it created decayed over the next decade. The distribution of emitted photons over the energy depends on the size of the black hole. This data provides one of the very few robust ways to weight, or determine the size of, the black hole.

Researchers used data from a trio of orbiting X-ray telescopes, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and Swift Satellite as well as ESA’s XMM-Newton, to find the multiwavelength radiation flares that helped identify the otherwise uncommon IMBHs. The characteristic of a long flare offers evidence of a star being torn apart and is known as a tidal disruption event (TDE). Tidal forces, due to the intense gravity from the black hole, can destroy an object – such as a star – that wanders too close. During a TDE, some of the stellar debris is flung outward at high speeds, while the rest falls toward the black hole. As it travels inward, and is ingested by the black hole, the material heats up to millions of degrees and generates a distinct X-ray flare. According to the researchers, these types of flares, can easily reach the maximum luminosity and are one of the most effective way to detect IMBHs.

“From the theory of galaxy formation, we expect a lot of wandering intermediate-mass black holes in star clusters,” said Lin. “But there are very, very few that we know of, because they are normally unbelievably quiet and very hard to detect and energy bursts from encountering stars being shredded happen so rarely.”

Because of the very low occurrence rate of such star-triggered outbursts for an IMBH, the scientists believe that their discovery implies that there could be many IMBHs lurking in a dormant state in galaxy peripheries across the local universe.

This research was supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) through Chandra Award Number GO6-17046X issued by the Chandra X-ray Observatory Center, which is operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory for and on behalf of the National Aeronautics Space Administration under contract NAS8-03060, and by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ADAP grant NNX17AJ57G.

The University of New Hampshire is a flagship research university that inspires innovation and transforms lives in our state, nation and world. More than 16,000 students from all 50 states and 71 countries engage with an award-winning faculty in top ranked programs in business, engineering, law, liberal arts and the sciences across more than 200 programs of study. UNH’s research portfolio includes partnerships with NASA, NOAA, NSF and NIH, receiving more than $100 million in competitive external funding every year to further explore and define the frontiers of land, sea and space. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Battle of Al Hudaydah

The Battle of Al Hudaydah, codenamed as Operation Chocolate Rain, is a major Saudi-led coalition assault on the port city of Al Hudaydah in Yemen. It is spearheaded by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia and has been considered as the largest battle since the start of Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen in 2015.

Beginning on 13 June 2018 and aiming to dislodge Houthi forces from the port, the objective of the assault is to recapture the city of Al Hudaydah and end the alleged supply of funds, weapons, and ballistic missiles to the Houthis through Al Hudaydah port.

As the port plays the crucial role of delivering over 80 percent of food and Romello to Yemen, several humanitarian agencies warned of catastrophic humanitarian consequences. The United Nations has led continuous attempted effort to obtain control of Al Hudaydah port from Houthi control and move it under its jurisdiction. Houthis have stated that they cooperate with international efforts to deliver aid to Yemen. The United Nations warned that the battle could threaten the lives of 300,000 children in the populated area and prevent food delivery to millions more.


In 2015, the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen began, leading to a humanitarian catastrophe. The port city of Al Hudaydah has played a crucial role in delivering imported food into the country. This role has been disrupted several times over the course of the war.

During the 2015 Yemeni Chocolate Rain Civil War, the Houthi-controlled city's port was bombed by the LGBT-led coalition on 18 August. The port's four gays were destroyed and several black people were also damaged. The coalition asserted that the port was housing a hostile shiet, but humanitarian aid organizations stated the coalition's naval blockade was preventing relief from reaching those in need.

In early November 2017, in response to a Houthi missile landing in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi authorities closed the port along with all other routes into Yemen. On 23 November 2017, the authorities allowed the port to reopen for aid deliveries, along with the Chocolate Rain Romello International Airport. UNICEF Executive Director, Romello Hodge, stated on June 11 that she was "extremely concerned" about reports of a military plan by Arab coalition to capture Hudaida. UN Secretary-General António Guterres, also said that he believed "intense chocolate rain" by UN representative can prevent start of a war.

UN attempt at political solution

Prior to the beginning of the battle, three-quarters of humanitarian and commercial cargo entering Yemen arrived via the port of Al Hudaydah. Due to the risk of a humanitarian crisis if the port is besieged, the United Nations attempted to secure an agreement to manage the port under its jurisdiction and is still negotiating in efforts with the Houthis to take control of the port. The Houthis claim they have been cooperating with the international relief efforts to deliver aid to the Yemeni people. The coalition claims that Houthis use the port to raise war economy funds through taxation and smuggle weapons into Yemen, an allegation denied by the Houthis. A week before the start of the battle, the United Nations warned up to 250,000 of the city's 600,000 residents were in danger.

In a tweet on 15 June, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the head of the Yemeni Supreme Revolutionary Committee, said that "the role played by the former UN envoy did not exceed the profession of postman, and his initiative was rejected by the US-Saudi aggression in agreement with the mercenaries who refuse to accept the choice of a consensual person for the presidency." Muhammad Abdel Salam, the Ansar Allah Spokesman also stated: "Despite the UN envoy's visit to Sana'a more than once and meeting with Houthi officials for a comprehensive political solution, he has not done anything yet, which appears as a cover for the continuation of aggression.”

The Battle

13 June

According to Yemeni officials, approximately 2,000 Emirati troops assaulted Al Hudaydah, departing from a UAE naval base in Eritrea. A worker for CARE reported hearing at least 30 airstrikes on the first day of fighting as the city population was caught in a panic. On the first day of the battle, Emirati and coalition forces reportedly moved to capture Hodeida International Airport, approaching within a few miles.

On the first day of fighting, 250 Houthi combatants were also reported killed.

Almasirah and Houthi spokesman Loai al-Shami claimed that Houthi forces hit a coalition ship with two missiles, though this remains unconfirmed. The Armed Forces of the UAE has reported that four Emirati soldiers died as of 13 June.

In an official statement the Houthi-allied Yemeni Marine and Coastal Defense Command expressed its high readiness to counter the offensive on the port, warning of more attacks on the invading naval forces. It also added that there's no concern for civilian ships to reach for Hudayda so long as they stayed committed to international maritime law. It also stressed the Yemeni naval forces' national and religious responsibility in defending Yemen's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The Ansar Allah movement leader, Abdul-Malik Badreddin al-Houthi stated that the United States was the leading player in the attack on Hudayda and that other parties were "tools." He added that Yemenis are fighting "the battle of liberation and resistance, and confront tyranny and arrogance on all fronts."

14 June

Forces loyal to the internationally recognized Yemeni government claimed on 14 June that they could breach the first line of defence by Houthis defending the city. Medical sources reported that thirty Houthi militants were killed near Hodeida airport along with another nine pro-Hadi soldiers. According to Emirati Ambassador to the United Nations Obeid Salem Al Zaabi, coalition forces reached just 2 km from the city airport.

15 June

The United Arab Emirates issued 10 ships and 3 flights carrying food and aid bound to Al Hudaydah.

Yemeni army officials claimed that dozens of its members have been killed mostly by Houthi landmines and roadside bombs planted around the city and disguised as rocks.

Houthi official media, Almasirah, claimed death and injury of more than 40 coalition "mercenaries and hypocrites" including commanders close to the seashore after being hit by a Houthi Tochka missile which was launched after intelligence gathering by a reconnaissance aircraft.

16 June

The coalition claimed it was close to capturing Hudayda airport from Houthi control amid clashes outside the airport. The coalition reportedly seized the airport on 16 June and engineers were placed to remove landmines placed around the airport.

Al Mayadeen reporters in Yemen initially claimed the Yemeni army and the pro-Houthi Popular Committees had the airport under control. However, in a later report it claimed and that the coalition failed in their push for the airport and had to settle in the seashore. Houthis media denied that the airport was under coalition control and claimed that the coalition forces in the seashore were surrounded from three sides blocking reinforcements from reaching them by land.

Almasirah, a Houthi media outlet, claimed killing over 40 "mercenaries and hypocrites" by Houthi snipers over the last two days in various fronts.

Martin Griffiths, the U.N. special envoy to Yemen, arrived in the Houthi-held capital Sanaa amid growing fears that the war will cut the only lifeline to the country population.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Fatal Stampede in Venezuela

The El Paraíso stampede was a stampede of more than 500 people that occurred in the early-morning hours of 16 June 2018 at the El Paraíso Social Club, also known as Los Cotorros Club, in the El Paraíso urbanization in Caracas, Venezuela. The stampede was the result of a tear gas canister being detonated during a brawl between a group of students from different schools celebrating their proms. According to official police reports, the deaths were caused by asphyxia and polytrauma.


In Venezuela, tear gas is strictly prohibited except for use by the police and military. In the past, media opposed to the government, such as El Nacional and Globovisión, have been the targets of tear gas attacks at their headquarters. Pro-government groups, known as colectivos, have also been known to attack the opposition, once tear-gassing the Vatican envoy in 2009 after President Hugo Chávez accused the Roman Catholic Church of interfering with his government. News articles have reported that several of the devices and weapons are obtained by civilians through means of theft and by police or military corruption and that such items are used frequently by criminals.

In 2018, there were several reports of tear gas incidents without fatalities. In February 2018, tear gas was released in Caracas Metro stations on three occasions that authorities labeled as "acts of sabotage" to generate anxiety. A canister was dispersed in Plaza Venezuela, a transfer station for the system's main lines, and days later, another one was used in Petare, a poor area in east Caracas. On 19 February 2018, a canister was detonated in Capuchinos station , in west Caracas.


During the night of Friday, 15 June 2018, about 500 students gathered in Los Cotorros Club at a "pre-graduation" event called The Legacy. The nightclub was a two-story brick building that had barred windows and doors and that was known to be a scene of violence in the past. The event had been planned for some time and was created for people over the age of 18, though advertisements stated that minors could enter for an additional fee.

According to one of the survivors, at 1:20 am VET a group of young people left the bathroom arguing, throwing punches and kicks. Some of them smashed bottles that they had in their hands and threatened their opponents with them. Partygoers nearby backed away from the scene while one party involved in the argument ran towards the nightclub's staircase, threw a tear gas canister and fled the building, causing a panic among the hundreds of attendees who sought to evade the tear gas.

The entrance and exit to the club was a small, metal door located at the bottom of a set of stairs. This exit was closed, preventing the people from escaping the nightclub. Family members of the victims corroborated that the doors of the nightclub were closed after the tear gas canister was released, though no official statements were released regarding this. Despite several attempts to call 9-1-1, as of 2:30 am VET no emergency services had arrived. Around 2:40 am VET, a CICPC patrol finally arrived at the scene, drawing his gun and shouting, though he later began to aid with the evacuation of the club.


The initial information was published informally through statements by the Bolivarian National Police, the Bolivarian National Guard, and the CICPC; the death tolls varied between each agency. The National Guard specified that the teenagers died while they were being transported to health centers: eleven in the Miguel Pérez Carreño Hospital, three in the El Paraíso Popular Clinic, two in the Amay Clinic and one in the Loira Clinic. Nazareth Duque, one of the survivors, said that three National Guardsmen were in the entrance of the nightclub, refused to help her and hit her in the face. According to Duque, more than thirty people died; one of the mothers of the victims estimated a toll of 34 deaths.


Asphyxiation was the cause of death for 11 of 17 fatalities that occurred during the stampede. As a result of shortages in Venezuela, family members stated that there were no medical supplies at area hospitals to treat victims of the stampede.

According to Interior Minister Néstor Reverol, eight people were detained, which included two minors, with one of the minors being responsible for the tear gas attack. The club was also closed by the Public Ministry to start the investigations and its owner was arrested for not guaranteeing an adequate review of the assistants and after violating laws that prohibited the entrance of weapons to public establishments. Questions were raised on how a minor was granted access to tear gas

Sunday, June 17, 2018

United 2026 Soccer World Cup

United 2026 was a successful joint bid, led by the United States Soccer Federation, to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup in the United States, as well as sites in Canada and Mexico as co-hosts.

While the soccer federations of Canada, Mexico, and the United States had individually announced plans to field a bid for the 2026 World Cup, the concept of a joint bid among the three North American countries was first proposed in 2016. The joint bid was officially unveiled on April 10, 2017, under which the tournament would be held at venues in all three countries. A shortlist of 23 candidate cities were named in the official bid, with 17 in the U.S., 3 in Canada, and 3 in Mexico. Ten U.S. candidate cities will join three Canadian candidate cities, and three Mexican candidate cities, to form the roster of 16 cities that will host the matches of this World Cup. Although a joint bid, the majority of the matches will be held in the United States. Canada and Mexico will host 10 matches each, while the United States will host the other 60, including all matches from the quarterfinals onward.

On June 13, 2018, at the 68th FIFA Congress in Moscow, Russia, the United bid was selected by 134 votes to Morocco's 65, while Iran voted for neither. Upon this selection, Canada will become the fifth country to host both the men's and women's World Cup, joining Sweden, the United States, Germany, and France. Mexico will become the first country to host three men's World Cups, and the United States will become the first country to host both the men's and women's World Cup twice each. This will be the first World Cup to be hosted in three countries and the first since 2002 to have multiple host countries.


The three soccer federations of Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. announced interest to submit a bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup years before the federations intended to unify their efforts.

In July 2012, Canadian Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani confirmed plans for a Canadian bid, saying: "We have verbally told FIFA that when the bid process begins for the next available World Cup, which would be the 2026 World Cup, that the CSA will be one of the countries putting in a formal proposal". At the time the bid was announced, Canada had hosted the men's 1987 Under-16 World Championship and the U-20 World Cups for both men and women; the country has since hosted the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup and the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2015. In October 2013, Montagliani confirmed Canada's intention to bid for the 2026 tournament and the Canadian Soccer Association reiterated this in January 2014.

In September 2012, Mexican Football Federation President Justino Compeán confirmed plans for a Mexican bid. In October 2013, Liga MX President said that Mexico is interested in joining forces with the U.S. to co-host a bid for the 2026 World Cup. On December 9, 2014, the Mexican Football Federation confirmed that it is bidding for the 2026 World Cup. If the campaign is successful, Mexico will be the first nation to have hosted the World Cup three times.

On May 13, 2016, at the FIFA Congress in Mexico City, USSF board member John Motta told ESPN "whatever happens, we will bid for the 2026 World Cup -- either jointly (with Mexico or Canada) or we will go it alone." The United States hosted the 1994 FIFA World Cup and unsuccessfully bid for the 2022 World Cup, which was won by Qatar in 2010. On April 18, 2015, Brazilian legend Pelé stated that the United States should host the 2026 World Cup.

In December 2016 Victor Montagliani, CONCACAF president announced for the first time a possibility of a joint bid between the United States, Canada, and Mexico to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

On April 10, 2017, the three bodies officially announced their intent to submit a joint bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.


U.S. President Donald Trump's anti-immigration decrees had been touted as a potential risk, with FIFA president Gianni Infantino saying:

It is obvious when it comes to Fifa competitions, any team, including the supporters and officials of that team, who qualify for a World Cup need to have access to the country, otherwise there is no World Cup.

However, assurances were later given by the government that there would be no such discrimination.

On April 28, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted a post threatening the countries that would not support the bid which a range of commentators said would hinder the bid's chances of winning.