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August 2017

President Trump: RT @realDonaldTrump: THANK YOU to all of the incredible HEROES in Texas. America is with you! #TexasStrong

Play As A Lovecraftian Horror In Manimal Sanctuary

Lurking on the fringes of society after terrifying monsters have consumed the city, a monster waits. It listens to every conversation, digs up long-forgotten secrets, uncovers lies from the past, it consumes human emotion. It is you. This is the experience that awaits players of Manimal Sanctuary.

Postopian Games have released a free demo of its virtual reality (VR) horror title for Google Cardboard. Available for both iOS and Android, the demo puts the player in role of a Lovecraftian monster who is lurking in the suburban islands of Toronto after the rest of the city was consumed by some dark monstrosity. The player can eavesdrop on conversations between the survivors as they try to scrap together a living and survive. Players need to search for strong emotions to survive, and if they can’t find any, there are dark secrets hidden in the pasts of some of the survivors, just waiting to be uncovered.

Controls are handled using gaze-based interaction, so will not require extra peripherals or controllers to function. The developers also made a deliberate choice to make the performance of the title not be too demanding on older or lower-spec smartphones, to allow more people to enjoy Manimal Sanctuary.

A blog by writer and designer Jim Munroe speaks further to the goals they developers had in mind with Manimal Sanctuary: “This question of what kind of society do we want to have — how safe, and how just — is of obvious relevance to our current political discussion about immigration, refugees, and terrorism,” he said, “We’re also interested in seeing what the player comfort is in relation to the creature they embody. Is manipulation of humans OK if it’s allowing them to survive? Is the farmer/livestock relationship — wherein humans are providing emotions, as cows provide milk — one we’re entirely comfortable with?”

A video trailer is available to view below.

VRFocus will bring you further information on Manimal Sanctuary as it becomes available. Source:

Richard Branson: Imagine a world powered by renewable energy – it’s going to happen

Explosions strike chemical plant after floods in Crosby, Texas

The owner of a flooded-out chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, said early Thursday it received reports of explosions at the plant.

Arkema Inc. said the Harris County Emergency Operations Center notified the company at 2 a.m. Thursday of explosions and black smoke coming from its Crosby plant, which was inundated by Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters.

But the Harris County sheriff Thursday morning described the incident as a chemical reaction, not an explosion.

The development comes a day after Arkema, whose chemicals are used in making plastics, warned that the organic peroxides used in the site’s manufacturing process had begun to heat up after the plant lost its primary source of power and backup power from generators. Without electricity to power refrigeration, the chemicals — stored in 18-wheeler box vans throughout the plant — were expected to degrade, possibly leading to some type of explosion or fire.

The plant has nine vans, each with 36,000 pounds of organic peroxide stored in cardboard containers. Containers in one of the vans popped and caught fire, producing smoke that wafted 30 to 40 feet into the air, local officials told reporters early Thursday.

Arkema expects each of the vans will eventually ignite as they lose power and refrigeration.

“Please do not return to the area within the evacuation zone until local emergency response authorities announce it is safe to do so,” the company’s statement said.

Assistant Chief Bob Royall, with the Harris County Fire Marshal, told reporters the chemicals inside each van that loses refrigeration “will burn with intensity until the fuel is consumed, and then they will die down again.”

The byproduct of the fires would be typical “black smoke with carbon particles in it,” Royall said.

His office and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office downplayed environmental and public health risks from the plant, going as far as suggesting that “explosion” was not the proper terminology for the chemical reactions in the vans.

“They were different organic peroxides of different grades that were released, and it created a pop in the containers where they were being stored,” Sheriff Ed Gonzalez told reporters. “It wasn’t an explosion, I want to be very clear.”

“We just don’t believe there’s any further threat, even to the broader community. Even if somebody stayed behind in the active zone,” Gonzalez added. “We just want to manage the narrative a little bit, to make sure people don’t get in a panic if there doesn’t have to be.”

Meanwhile, federal authorities have sent mixed messages.

At a press conference in Washington, D.C., Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long called the plume wafting from the plant “incredibly dangerous.” But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a news release Thursday that “there are no concentrations of concern for toxic materials reported at this time.” The agency said it was reviewing data from an aircraft that surveyed the scene shortly after the explosions.

“We will consider using any authority we have to further address the situation to protect human health and the environment,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said.

The county has been consulting with Arkema and outside experts since early Tuesday about how best to handle the chemical reactions.

“We’ve developed what we consider a very safe plan,” said Royall, the Harris County fire marshal. “Everything is going exactly as we expected.”

“If you want to call it an explosion, there’s a technical definition, and I’m not going to get into that,” he told reporters.

Fifteen sheriff’s deputies at the scene were taken to the hospital Thursday morning after reporting that smoke had irritated their eyes and throats. All have been released, the sheriff’s office tweeted at 9:20 a.m.

While the company has downplayed the potential impacts of the explosion — Arkema CEO Rich Rowe said Wednesday that any sustained environmental impact would be “minimal” — environmental experts expressed concern about fallout from the explosion.

“That is not good. That is not good. That’s a big concern,” said Neil Carman, clean air director for the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter. “This is uncharted territory. In 37 years, I have never heard of anything like this happening.”

Carman said the smoke indicates the presence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a known carcinogen. Depending on the wind, these chemicals could spread quickly to the surrounding area, he said.

Still, it’s difficult to predict the exact impact of the fumes given the minimal information that Arkema has released, according to Bakeyah Nelson, executive director of Air Alliance Houston. In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Rowe refused to release the company’s federally mandated risk management plan or the plant’s chemical inventory.

“Without that information, it’s difficult to really assess the situation,” Nelson said. “Them releasing that to the community is really the key to being able to understand.”

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said it was among several local, state, and federal agencies monitoring the plant.

“Of immediate concern for residents around the plant is smoke,” the agency said in a press release Thursday. “The smoke from the fire is especially acrid and irritating. Those with heart problems or respiratory conditions, such as asthma or emphysema, may be particularly sensitive.”

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government, and statewide issues.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Explosions strike chemical plant after floods in Crosby, Texas on Aug 31, 2017. Source:

Lenovo Unveils the Motorola Moto x4 with AR Functionality

Lenovo has comes out all guns blazing today at IFA in Germany this week, with its big augmented reality (AR) announcement coming in the form of the Lenovo Mirage AR headset – with plenty of mentions to Star Wars. While smartphones aren’t generally VRFocus’ thing unless mentioned alongside headset support like the LG V30, Lenovo’s Motorola division has unveiled the Moto x4 a mid-range device with an AR photo feature.

Essentially a way to spice up user images – mainly selfies – the feature lets them add a layer of animations to their photos or videos. While few details have been released on what this actually looks like, it sounds very similar to those from Snapchat or Facebook for example.

Motorola Moto x4_1

While not exactly the most amazing use of AR technology adding features such as these certainly does help bring the tech to as wider audience as possible, certainly helping consumers take notice when headset like the Mirage arrive.

In May a report by eMarketer showed that because of the rise in these types of features, AR market growth has continued to climb, estimating that in the US AR use has grown by around 30 percent since 2016.

As AR continues to grow, seeing greater use as an everyday technology, VRFocus will bring you the latest announcements. Source:

Harvey knocked out the water supply for thousands in Beaumont, Texas.

The storm made a second landfall Tuesday, pouring 26 inches on the oil town 100 miles east of Houston. Floods inundated its roadways, leaving many of its 118,000 residents stranded.

To make things worse, now Beaumont doesn’t even have running water. Floodwaters damaged the city’s pumps, knocking out its primary and backup water sources early Thursday morning. Local authorities say the water supply is out indefinitely, since they have to wait until the flood recedes to inspect the pumps.

The lack of water forced the shutdown of a large hospital, which also suspended its emergency services, NPR reports. And Beaumont residents lined up outside stores overnight, waiting to buy water and supplies. Nearly 200 people were in line outside the local Walmart on Thursday morning, according to the Huffington Post.

Some area stores reported water deliveries were coming from Houston, but major roadways between the two cities were impassable as of Thursday morning. FEMA Director Brock Long called Beaumont’s situation “dire” and said the military plans to deliver water to the city’s residents.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Harvey knocked out the water supply for thousands in Beaumont, Texas. on Aug 31, 2017. Source:

A little early for pumpkin spice, isn’t it?

As floodwaters peak and recede over the coming weeks, there will be lots of standing water for disease-transmitting mosquitoes to breed and multiply, the Atlantic reports.

West Nile virus has plagued Texans since 2002, and there were 22 cases of Zika in the state in 2017. Those numbers could increase sharply if mosquito populations spike. In New Orleans, West Nile cases doubled the year after Hurricane Katrina flooded much of the city. (Oh, and mosquito populations are already on the rise thanks to climate change.)

There are other dire health effects from the storm. Floodwater often carries untreated sewage, gasoline, and debris, all of which can cause injury and illness when people come into contact with it. Even after water recedes, tainted carpet and drywall can harbor mold and mildew, another serious health threat.

And, in an unfortunate twist, unmonitored emissions and chemical leaks among the refineries and plants in Houston’s extensive industrial district on Monday caused officials to issue a shelter-in-place warning for residents downwind of a breached pipeline.

All of this will take a greater toll on Houston residents sidelined into vulnerable neighborhoods — mostly communities of color who were already suffering before Harvey made headlines. For them, the storm is far, far from over. Source:

Donald Trump: THANK YOU to all of the incredible HEROES in Texas. America is with you! #TexasStrong

Who will bear the financial burden for Harvey’s rampage? Not insurance companies.

A home is surrounded by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, in Spring, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The estimated bills for Harvey are just now trickling in and they are preliminary, but a couple of facts are becoming clear.

First, Harvey will be rank among the costliest hurricanes to strike the U.S.

Second, a very large portion of the bill will wind up on property owners.

Among the more credible estimates for Harvey’s damage was issued on Wednesday by RMS, the risk modelling firm that works for insurance companies. Their model incorporates everything from property values and land elevations to river gauges and rainfall totals. While previous estimates had run from $30 billion to $160 billion, they put the economic costs of Harvey at between $70 billion and $90 billion.

That burden, moreover, is expected to be borne by property owners.

"The majority of these losses will be uninsured," Michael Young, a senior director at RMS said in a blog post.

The primary reason that the nation’s insurance companies are off the hook for the damage is that most of the destruction came from flooding, which is not normally covered by a standard home insurance policy. They cover wind damage, not floods.

As a result, the portion of losses in Harvey that are covered by the insurance industry may be relatively tiny.

AIR Worldwide, another catastrophe modeling firm, estimated industry insured losses at between $1.2 billion and $2.3 billion. An analysis by another firm, CoreLogic showed that insured losses for residential and commercial properties would run between $1 billion and $2 billion from wind and storm surge damage – not flooding. Another firm, S&P Global placed the figure at $6 billion.

If they’re right, in other words, standard insurance coverage may cover less than ten percent of the Harvey bill.

The other way that property owners may have coverage, of course, is through flood insurance, which is typically provided by the federal government.

But the vast majority of people in the  areas stricken by the floods did not carry flood coverage. In fact, only 17 percent of homeowners in the eight counties most directly affected by Harvey have flood insurance policies, according to a Washington Post analysis of Federal Emergency Management Agency data.

Overall, what that means is that the responsibility for the huge bills will mainly lie with the property owners in Harvey’s path. Source: