How to Protect Your House From Water Leaks—Without the Internet of Things

An Arduino and a few modifications to off-the-shelf equipment are all you need to guard against plumbing disasters

4 min read
Photo of home damage.

When Appliances Attack: A single stuck valve led to a leak that slowly but relentlessly damaged my home so thoroughly it had to be gutted and rebuilt.

Photo: David Schneider

You've seen it in the movies—the protagonist inexplicably blinks awake from deep sleep because some silent but menacing force threatens. Something like that happened to me early one Sunday morning not long ago. And as soon as I stepped out of bed, I knew things were going to be bad, because the floor of my second-story bedroom was covered with water.

It didn't take long to identify the source as I splashed down the hallway: the washing machine. An inlet valve had gotten stuck in the open position after we put in a load late the previous night. Eventually, the door of this front loader gave way. For several hours, water sluiced from our second-floor laundry closet onto just about every horizontal surface in the house—and quite a few of the vertical ones, too.

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Europe Expands Virtual Borders To Thwart Migrants

Our investigation reveals that Europe is turning to remote sensing to detect seafaring migrants so African countries can pull them back

14 min read
A photo of a number of people sitting in a inflatable boat on the water with a patrol ship in the background.

Migrants in a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey, on 28 February 2020.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

It was after midnight in the Maltese search-and-rescue zone of the Mediterranean when a rubber boat originating from Libya carrying dozens of migrants encountered a hulking cargo ship from Madeira and a European military aircraft. The ship’s captain stopped the engines, and the aircraft flashed its lights at the rubber boat. But neither the ship nor the aircraft came to the rescue. Instead, Maltese authorities told the ship’s captain to wait for vessels from Malta to pick up the migrants. By the time those boats arrived, three migrants had drowned trying to swim to the idle ship.

The private, Malta-based vessels picked up the survivors, steamed about 237 kilometers south, and handed over the migrants to authorities in Libya, which was and is in the midst of a civil war, rather than return to Malta, 160 km away. Five more migrants died on the southward journey. By delivering the migrants there, the masters of the Maltese vessels, and perhaps the European rescue authorities involved, may have violated the international law of the sea, which requires ship masters to return people they rescue to a safe port. Instead, migrants returned to Libya over the last decade have reported enslavement, physical abuse, extortion, and murders while they try to cross the Mediterranean.

If it were legal to deliver rescued migrants to Libya, it would be as cheap as sending rescue boats a few extra kilometers south instead of east. But over the last few years, Europe’s maritime military patrols have conducted fewer and fewer sea rescue operations, while adding crewed and uncrewed aerial patrols and investing in remote-sensing technology to create expanded virtual borders to stop migrants before they get near a physical border.

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