NASA Awards US Companies Contracts for Human Moon Landing

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The U.S. space agency NASA has awarded contracts to three American companies to develop spacecraft to land humans on the moon by 2024. In a remote news conference Thursday, NASA announced it had selected Blue Origin, the space exploration company owned by Jeff Bezos, owner of The Washington Post, and owner and founder of Amazon; Dynetics, a subsidiary of research company Leidos that is based in the city of Huntsville, Alabama; and SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, California, and owned by businessman Elon Musk. NASA says the companies will compete to design and develop systems for the agency’s Artemis program, which has the goal of landing men and women on the surface of the moon for the first time since the 1970s. The project would also develop systems by 2028 that could be used…
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UN Urges World Community to Prevent Child Hunger During Coronavirus Pandemic

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Two United Nations agencies called on the global community Wednesday to prevent hunger and malnutrition among the 370 million children who are not receiving school meals due to the closure of schools worldwide in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.The U.N. said school meals are particularly vital for girls, especially those in poor countries, whose struggling parents often send them to school to get meals, allowing them to avoid domestic responsibilities or early marriage."For millions of children around the world, the meal they get at school is the only meal they get in a day," said David Beasley, executive director of the U.N.'s World Food Program (WFP). "Without it, they go hungry, they risk falling sick, dropping out of school and losing their best chance of escaping poverty. We must act…
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UN: New Polio Outbreak in Niger After Vaccination Suspended

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The World Health Organization says Niger has been struck by a new outbreak of polio, following the suspension of immunization activities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.N. health agency reported that two children were infected by the highly infectious, water-borne disease and that one was paralyzed. The outbreak was sparked by a mutated virus that originated in the vaccine and was not connected to a previous polio epidemic Niger stopped last year, WHO said, in a statement last week.   "The poliovirus will inevitably continue to circulate and may paralyze more children as no high-quality immunization campaigns can be conducted in a timely manner," said Pascal Mkanda, WHO's coordinator of polio eradication in Africa.   In rare cases, the live virus in oral polio vaccine can evolve into a form…
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Orphaned, Abused, Exploited: The Coronavirus Threat to Children  

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Children could be the biggest victims of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the fact that the disease affects mostly older people, according to human rights groups.  It is estimated that 1.5 billion children worldwide are missing school. The outbreak is having myriad other impacts on young people, with hundreds of thousands orphaned by the disease that the coronavirus causes.  “More and more children are going to be left without parents,” said Jo Becker of Human Rights Watch. “We’ve seen from the Ebola crisis, for example, the HIV epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa, that when children are orphaned, they become much more vulnerable to sex trafficking, to child labor and other forms of exploitation.” A recent report from the International Labor Organization warned that 200 million people could lose their jobs as a result of the pandemic.  “As parents lose their employment, especially in developing countries, we often see more and more children…
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Large Asteroid to Fly by Earth Wednesday

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An asteroid just over two kilometers wide will pass close to earth Wednesday. But scientists with the U.S. space agency, NASA, say the object poses no threat to the planet.The asteroid is known as 1998 OR2, named for the year it was first discovered. It will safely pass at a distance of 6.3 million kilometers from Earth — about 16 times the distance between the Earth and the moon.NASA scientists say by astronomical standards, that distance still classifies the asteroid as a “near-earth” object and worth watching. The space agency considers objects that pass within 48 million kilometers of our planet a “near-earth” object. NASA maintains a planetary defense coordination office that keeps track of such objects and plots their courses through space. In an interview posted on the space agency’s website,…
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China Slams India’s Decision to Stop Using ‘Faulty’ Chinese Rapid Test Kits

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A decision by India to suspend the use of Chinese rapid testing kits for COVID-19 on the grounds that they are faulty has been slammed by the Chinese embassy in New Delhi as “unfair and irresponsible.”    The Indian government medical research agency that is dealing with the coronavirus outbreak has said it planned to return the test kits to the two Chinese firms from where they were procured and asked health authorities across the country to stop using them due to “wide variations” in their performance.    India had procured half a million antibody test kits earlier this month in a bid to ramp up testing amid concerns that its fight to slow the pandemic is being hampered by extremely low levels of testing. They are meant to detect antibodies in people…
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UK Mourns Front-Line Workers Who Have Died from Coronavirus

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The U.K. held a minute's silence Tuesday for all front-line workers who have died from the coronavirus, as official figures showed a new weekly high in the total number of deaths in England and Wales. As clocks struck 11 a.m., senior political leaders, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, joined hospital and nursing home staff in observing the silence. London's subway and bus networks came to a halt as workers honored colleagues, and Westminster Abbey paid tribute to "the sacrifice of health and care workers who have lost their lives in the service of others." On Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said 82 workers in the National Health Service and 16 social care staff had died so far. Other workers, including a number of bus drivers in London, have also died…
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Smartphone App Warns If You’ve Been Exposed to COVID-19

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Communities in the United States and around the world are talking about when and how to ease lockdown measures as they grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. This disease and how it spreads presents some unique challenges. People without symptoms can infect others, and for some, it can be deadly. What if a smartphone app could let you know if you have been exposed? Michelle Quinn reports. ...
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YouTube Expands Fact-Check Feature to US Video Searches During COVID-19 Pandemic

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YouTube, the video service of Alphabet Inc's Google, said on Tuesday it would start showing text and links from third-party fact checkers to U.S. viewers, part of efforts to curb misinformation on the site during the COVID-19 pandemic. The information panels, launched in Brazil and India last year, will highlight third-party, fact-checked articles above search results for specific topics such as "covid and ibuprofen." Social media sites including Facebook are under pressure to combat misinformation relating to the pandemic caused by the new coronavirus, from false cures to conspiracy theories. YouTube said in a blog post that more than a dozen U.S. publishers are participating in its fact-checking network.   ...
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Smartphone App Warns If You’ve Been Exposed to Coronavirus

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The smartphone in your pocket may soon let you know if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19.As communities around the world consider the first steps toward reopening, there is fear that once people begin moving, the virus will spread. But COVID-19 presents unique challenges to stop its spread. Some who are infected never had symptoms; those who do fall ill can spread the disease for a day or two before experiencing a cough or body chills, some of the common COVID-19 symptoms.Apple, Google and others are working on a plan to use smartphones to inform those who have crossed paths with an infected person. They call it “exposure notification.” A digital tool for health authoritiesNext month, Apple, the maker of the iPhone, and Google, whose Android operating system powers the majority of…
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These Symptoms Could Signal a COVID-19 Infection

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U.S. Federal Health officials have expanded their list of known coronavirus symptoms.  They say chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and the loss of the sense of smell or taste could be signs of a coronavirus infection.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had previously cited fever, shortness of breath and a cough as possible symptoms of COVID-19.  Here's what you should watch out for. ...
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Poll: Cost Makes Nearly 1 in 10 Leery of Seeking COVID Care 

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As states gear up to reopen, a poll finds a potential obstacle to controlling the coronavirus: nearly 1 in 10 adults say cost would keep them from seeking help if they thought they were infected. People stand in line as they wait to get tested for COVID-19 at a just-opened testing center in the Harlem section of New York, April 20, 2020.Experts say that to succeed, the nation's reopening has to be based on three pillars: testing, tracing those who came in contact with infected people and treatment for those who become ill. If people who may be sick are reluctant to come forward, that could create a blind spot for governors and public health officials trying to calibrate reopening plans to quickly contain potential virus flare-ups. The survey found that members of…
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Trump Urges States to Consider Opening Schools Before Summer

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President Donald Trump says states should "seriously consider" reopening their public schools before the end of the academic year, even though dozens already have said it would be unsafe for students to return until the summer or fall. Trump made the comments Monday in a call with governors discussing how to reopen their economies, among other topics. "Some of you might start thinking about school openings, because a lot of people are wanting to have the school openings. It's not a big subject, young children have done very well in this disaster that we've all gone through," he said. While addressing Vice President Mike Pence, Trump added that it's something "they can seriously consider, and maybe get going on." None of the governors on the call responded to the suggestion,…
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Smartphone App Sends Alert If You’ve Been Exposed to COVID-19

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Communities in the United States and around the world are talking about when and how to ease lockdown measures as they grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. This disease and how it spreads presents some unique challenges. People without symptoms can infect others, and for some, it can be deadly. What if a smartphone app could let you know if you have been exposed? Michelle Quinn reports. ...
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COVID Link Suspected in Children’s Inflammatory Disease

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Doctors in Britain, Italy, Portugal and Spain are exploring a possible link between a severe inflammatory disease in children and the coronavirus. A growing number of children of various ages in several European countries have been admitted to hospitals with high fever and heart issues. Some also have suffered from gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting and diarrhea. The children appear to be suffering from Kawasaki disease, which is more common in parts of Asia where it afflicts children younger than 5. Symptoms include skin rashes, gland swelling and in severe cases inflammation of the heart and blood vessels. The cause of the illness is not clear. COVID-19, a disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus, is rare in children. But an unusual spike in the number of children suffering from Kawasaki-type symptoms at the time of the coronavirus pandemic has put health authorities in Europe on alert. After hearing from pediatricians, British National Health System issued a warning saying: “Over the last three weeks there has been an apparent rise in the…
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Ugandan HIV-Positive Volunteer Goes Distance to Deliver ARVs

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Amid a three-week suspension of public and private transport in Uganda due to the coronavirus, some HIV-positive Ugandans have struggled to get hold of needed antiretroviral medications. Noticing a higher risk for HIV patients with compromised immune systems, health worker Simon Bukenya jumped on his bicycle and began making home deliveries, even going long distances to do it.Simon Peter Bukenya has been living with HIV for 30 years and understands the importance of taking antiretroviral drugs. A lockdown due to the coronavirus has stranded Ugandans in need of medical attention, including people who are HIV-positive. Bukenya says on a daily basis, he bicycles more than 80 kilometers to deliver medications to those who need them. He says he started with three patients, and word of his services spread after he posted a notice…
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COVID-Hit Businesses Weigh Cost vs. Environment

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By 2025, Indonesia is expected to generate 150 thousand tons of trash per day, much of it plastic. Indonesian entrepreneur David Christian is developing everyday products to edge the world’s 4th most populous nation toward producing zero waste. But with COVID-19 wreaking havoc on businesses around the world, some outlets are finding environmentally friendly packaging a luxury they can't afford. VOA's Rendy Wicaksana and Ahadian Utama report from Jakarta, Indonesia. ...
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COVID-19 Clean Air Gains Won’t Last, Experts Say

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From a hill four miles outside Boston, World Resources Institute economist Michelle Manion says she can read the letters on top of the Prudential building, a city landmark."I've never been able to do that," she said. "It's really amazing."Since FILE - Gas prices are listed for unleaded at a gas station in Oklahoma City.Don't expect it to last."The general expectation is that most of this will pick up once the crisis is over," said Michael Gerrard, director of the Saban Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. Satellite imagery already shows air pollution rebounding over China. In the meantime, the pandemic has slowed the transition to cleaner energy.BloombergNEF, an energy research organization, lowered its 2020 forecast for new wind power construction globally by 12% and new solar power by 8%. Investment…
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Australians Race to Download COVID-19 Tracing App Despite Privacy Concerns

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More than a million Australians have downloaded a coronavirus contact tracing app within hours of it being released by the government.  Officials have said the technology would help Australia get back to normal and help lift restrictions, but it has been criticized by civil liberties groups.  Australia has managed to control its coronavirus outbreak, but officials worry about the risk of another flareup.  There are 6,713 confirmed Covid-19 infections in Australia.  83 people have died.  The Australian government says the voluntary app will help to save lives.  It is designed to enable health officials to trace people potentially exposed to COVID-19.  Smartphone users who download the app will be notified if they have had contact with another user who has tested positive for coronavirus.  It uses Bluetooth signals to log…
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Pandemic Has Businesses Weighing Cost vs. Environmentally-friendly Material

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By 2025, Indonesia is expected to generate 150 thousand tons of trash per day, much of it plastic. Indonesian entrepreneur David Christian is developing everyday products to edge the world’s 4th most populous nation toward producing zero waste. But with COVID-19 wreaking havoc on businesses around the world, some outlets are finding environmentally friendly packaging a luxury they can't afford. VOA's Rendy Wicaksana and Ahadian Utama report from Jakarta, Indonesia. ...
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Amazon Tests Screening New Merchants for Fraud via Video Calls in Pandemic

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Amazon.com Inc is piloting the use of video conference calls to verify the identity of merchants who wish to sell goods on its websites, in a new plan to counter fraud without in-person meetings in the pandemic, the company said on Sunday. The world's largest online retailer has long faced scrutiny over how it polices counterfeits and allegedly unsafe products on its platform. Fakes have frustrated top labels like Apple Inc and Nike Inc and discouraged some from selling via Amazon at all. Amazon said its pilot began early this year and included in-person appointments with prospective sellers. However, it switched exclusively to video conferencing in February because of social distancing requirements related to the highly contagious coronavirus, which has infected more than 2.9 million people globally. The interview vetting, on top of…
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Senior Communities Adopt Virtual Reality to Fight Dementia, Social Isolation

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Seventy-five-year-old Eileen Higa loves to travel and has visited many countries, but she never got a chance to see the Indonesian island of Bali. After moving into Silverado Beverly Place, a memory care community in Los Angeles, she thought she would never have a chance to see exotic places again.  But on a sunny day before lunch, Higa’s dream came true, with virtual reality (VR). When she placed a VR headset over her eyes, the four walls around her disappeared, and she was transported to Bali, where a tour guide showed her key sites around the island.“I like to travel, so for me, it's great,” Higa said.Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can The second image: Eileen Higa feels happy and excited after an…
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Seniors Use Virtual Reality to Fight Dementia, Social Isolation

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Elderly people are believed to be especially susceptible to the coronavirus. As a result, many senior living facilities have been on lockdown mode, not allowing visitors in order to protect the residents. But experts say this social isolation could lead to feelings of loneliness for many seniors.  One virtual reality company, MyndVR, is donating VR headsets to all 50 U.S. states to keep seniors engaged.  VOA's Elizabeth Lee reports on the potential benefits of a virtual reality experience. ...
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COVID-19 Frightens Malaria Patients in Cameroon

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A song urging Cameroonians not to relent in the fight against malaria blasted through speakers Saturday — World Malaria Day — at road junctions and popular neighborhoods, as well as from publicity vans driving through Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde.Dr. Daniel Etoundi of Cameroon’s public health ministry said health teams were being taken to every neighborhood to try to discourage patients from buying roadside drugs or resorting to African traditional healers for malaria treatment, because those can lead to severe health complications."If the product is toxic, the liver will be spoiled [destroyed]. Same with the kidney," he said. "Most of the products that we consume are eliminated through the kidney by urine. Now, if the drug is toxic, it will spoil the kidney function."The Cameroon Ministry of Public Health reported that since…
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Unmanned Cargo Spacecraft Docks at the International Space Station

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An unmanned cargo spacecraft with food, fuel and supplies docked at the International Space Station (ISS) on Saturday.Russian Progress 75 cargo ship left the Baikonur Cosmodrom in Kazakhstan, a few minutes before 1 a.m. GMT and transported almost 3 tons of food and other supplies to the ISS.Scientists and staff, both in Baikonur and at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, monitored the three-hour journey and the docking.The cargo ship is set to remain at the station until December, when it will leave and burn up in Earth's atmosphere.    ...
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