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CNN10 2020-10-07

CNN 10

Reporting on A Storm in the Caribbean; Tides and Flood Barriers in Italy; Potential Role of Mealworms in Consuming Plastic Waste

Aired October 7, 2020 - 04:00 聽 ET


CARL AZUZ, CNN 10 ANCHOR: Hi, I'm Carl Azuz for CNN 10. Hurricane Delta headlines today's show. That's not a name that's in the regular rotation.

We'll explain why in a moment but first, the storm. It's powerful and it got that way quickly. Rapid intensification occurs when a hurricane's wind speeds increase by 35 miles per hour or more over a 24 hour period. By Tuesday afternoon, Hurricane Delta's wind speeds increased by 85 miles per hour in a day and that hasn't happened since 2005 when Hurricane Wilma struck Cancun, Mexico. That same city was in the direct path of Hurricane Delta.

It was expected to make landfall Wednesday morning as a Category 4 storm. Forecasters predicted its sustained wind speeds would be between 130 and 156 miles per hour. That makes Delta capable of catastrophic damage. And it's storm surge, the rise in sea water levels blown ashore by a hurricane, was expected to be six to nine feet higher than normal tide levels. This has been an active hurricane season. Atlantic storms have used up all 21 names on the annual list and Delta is the 25th storm that needed a name. So forecasters are using Greek letters like Delta and Gamma to identify the new systems.

It's the first time they've had to do that since the record hurricane season of 2005 and Delta could become the first hurricane with a Greek letter ever recorded to strike the United States. After hitting Mexico, forecaster predicted the storm would then move into the western Gulf of Mexico and possibly hit the U.S. Gulf coast on Friday or Saturday. They say there's still a lot of uncertainty about where the storm will go and how strong it will become once it's in the Gulf.

10 Second Trivia. What Italian city is also known by the nickname Serenissima? Palermo, Genoa, Venice or Florence. Meaning serene, La Serenissima was a nickname for the Republic of Venice.

Acqua alta is another Italian term related to our next story. It means high water. It describes the very high tide that traditionally causes flooding throughout much of Venice. This has been going on for 1,200 years but an aqua alta that hit last November was particularly damaging. It flooded almost 90 percent of the city and that combined with the corona virus pandemic caused tourist visits to plummet. Last Saturday was supposed to be the first acqua alta of the season but instead of this, St. Mark's Square looked more like this. Pretty dry except for some large puddles circling around the drains. .

Since 1984, a project has been in development to try to stem the floods of Venice. It involves 78 flood barriers installed around the city. They're supposed to rise up to form a dam when acqua alta arrives keeping the Adriatic Sea from flooding Venice. The project has cost billions. It's been repeatedly delayed and distorted by corruption and controversy and many Venetians thought it wouldn't work, but apparently it did.

Places that are normally knee deep in flood waters were mostly dry on Saturday and Italian politicians called it a clear success for the project.

It didn't last though. The barriers are only set up to rise when the tide hit's a very high level. If it falls short of that level, the barriers stay down but the city can still flood. That's what happened the next day and that's why some Venetians were disappointed. They're hoping the barriers will be adjusted to rise sooner preventing any seasonal flooding in the city.


ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Alison Kosik in New York. It's the latest hit to the entertainment industry because of the corona virus pandemic. Regal Cinemas is closing all of it's theaters across the United States. The question is whether the more than 500 closures are temporary or become permanent. The decision comes after the second biggest theater chain in the world reopened in July and comes just days after the latest James Bond film, "No Time to Die" was delayed until next Spring. Cineworld Group which owns Regal is also closing 127 theaters in the United Kingdom.

The closures will affect 45,000 employees globally.


AZUZ: Could mealworms be the solution to the proliferation of plastic in the environment? No. At least not alone according to a chemical engineering professor at Michigan State University. Romani Narioan (ph) says it would take an extraordinary amount of mealworms to break all this down. He adds that using existing industrial methods to recycle plastics and then designing new ones that are easier to break down would be better solutions. But if scientists can take research involving mealworms and use it to develop a large scale method of breaking down plastics, it could be another weapon in the war against plastic waste.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One thousand mealworms can eat about two grams of plastic a week. So it would take 3 or 4,000 mealworms to eat this Styrofoam cup, about a week.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's Ania Brandon (ph). A scientist at Stanford University, she studies (inaudible) and yet can still be used to feed these.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We all know that plastics are a huge issue facing the environment especially in the marine environment. We're all looking for good ways on how to deal with all this plastic waste that we have. We found that mealworms, sort of tiny innocuous insects found pretty much everywhere, can eat and degrade a few different types of plastic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mealworms are basically the larvae of a type of dark wing beetle. They do have a commercial use as food for livestock like pigs and chickens. But then it was discovered in 2015 that these little grubs could eat polystyrene and a whole new line of research opened up. One that Brandon (ph) has pursued.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So why (inaudible) mealworms are able to eat plastic is still on open question. We're still trying to research that. There's other insects out there that eat predominately wak (ph) which is also full of long chain polymers. And it looks like somehow evolutionarily these insects that are used to eating and breaking down these naturally existing big polymers are fortuitously able to break down some of these plastics that we're putting into the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Brandon's (ph) first discovery was said it wasn't just polystyrene that mealworms chomped down on. They ate polyethylene too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's really cool because one issue that we have with plastic waste is that it's really hard to recycle multiple types of plastics together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is how they do it. Plastic has no nutrients in it. So it's the energy from breaking down the plastic's polymer bonds that the mealworms are after. They do this using a powerful bacteria in their gut which breaks down a majority of plastic into nothing but hydrogen and carbon. But there are other ingredients in plastics that are not quite so easy to break down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's all sorts of crazy chemicals used in plastics manufacturing from stabilizers to plasticizers to flame retardants. And that's a problem because we know that some of these chemicals can be toxic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When Brandon (ph) looked into this, she found that some degraded plastics did come out the other end of the mealworm and flushed out with them came all the chemicals that could do harm further up the food chain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So they are not bioaccumulating. That means that this mealworm is still a valuable food source which is great.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it's not the feed industry that Brandon (ph) is interested in for her research. For her, it's a question of scaling up and to do that she needed to understand how a mealworm does what it does.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we're looking and trying to isolate the bacteria from the mealworm's gut to be able to scale those up in these big vats that we call bioreactors. That are just chocked full of bacteria. You can throw your plastic in and hopefully it will all break down.


AZUZ: You can see, hear the trees behind me are all still standing. And you might have noticed that I try not to talk to you like a plastic news reporter. That's what I aim for anyway and we're going behind the scenes to explain some tips on being more yourself when you're on camera. This is part of our partnership with AT&T Youth Voices Collective. We've assembled a series of special editions featuring yours truly and student questions about journalism. The video is available now. It's free. You can find it at CNN10.com and at YouTube.com/CNN10.

For 10 out of 10. I think the last time we covered drones in a football stadium they were racing. This one's going to work. At Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, there's a National Football League game coming up on Sunday and fans will be allowed back in the stands. So a few drones have been hired to spray disinfectant in an attempt to prevent the spread of corona virus. This is believed to be the first time a stadium has used drones to do this. We don't know how the costs stack up against other methods. But we know that proponents will "drone" on about the benefits saying this "propellers" others to do the same thing.

While critics will look for different "remotes" of cleaning more within their "control". Where it lands, it's an interesting idea that was "floated" and thankfully the roof retracts to let in both drones and "Falcons". I'm Carl Azuz for CNN 10. Melcher-Dallas is a city in Iowa.

It's also the home of the Saints of Melcher-Dallas High School. Thank you for watching. YouTube.com/CNN10 is where we received their shout out request.