Looming Madagascar Famine Sparks Nutrition Emergency

All, News
Famine is looming in southern Madagascar and emergency food aid is needed for hundreds of thousands of people to head off a humanitarian disaster on the African island nation, the U.N. World Food Program warned.Five consecutive years of drought, exacerbated by unexpected sandstorms, have depleted people's food stocks, forcing them to resort to desperate measures to survive. The WFP senior director of operations in Madagascar, Amer Daoudi, said at least 1.35 million people are suffering from acute hunger, many of whom are living off locusts, raw cactus fruits or wild leaves. He said malnutrition is soaring to alarming levels, putting the lives of many children under age five at risk. While on a diplomatic and governmental tour of the region, he said he saw horrific images of starving, malnourished and stunted children. FILE…
Read More

Despite Glitch, NASA Thrilled With Performance of Mars Helicopter

All, News
Scientists with the U.S. space agency NASA Friday said the tiny helicopter they sent to Mars has exceeded their expectations, despite a glitch that forced its fourth flight to be rescheduled.   During a virtual news briefing on the Mars mission, scientists and engineers with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said the Ingenuity helicopter’s first three flights showed them enough capability that they are expanding the operation of the aircraft by 30 days, doubling its originally planned mission time.   NASA had originally described the Ingenuity project as a technology demonstration designed to test flight capability in the thin Martian atmosphere. Project Manager Mi Mi Aung, said it performed so well that it is transitioning from a demonstration to operation phase, in which the craft will be used to show how…
Read More

NASA Mars Helicopter Fails to Respond for 4th Flight

All, News
The U.S. space agency NASA said the experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity, after three successful flights, failed to respond to commands to lift off for a fourth flight Thursday. Scientists with the Ingenuity team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in southern California say a software problem similar to one that delayed the experimental craft’s initial flight 11 days ago prevented the helicopter from transitioning to “flight mode.” The scientists plan to try again Friday. The 1.8-kilogram aircraft arrived on the planet packed away on NASA’s Perseverance rover when it landed on Mars in February. It was unfolded and dropped from the rover a little more than three weeks ago, and each of the three flights it has made so far have been successively more ambitious. After first simply rising three…
Read More

EU Hits Apple with Music Streaming Charge in Boost for Spotify

All, Business, News, Technology
EU regulators accused Apple on Friday of distorting competition in the music streaming market, siding with Spotify in a case that could lead to a hefty fine and changes in the iPhone maker's lucrative business practices.   The preliminary findings are the first time Brussels has leveled anti-competitive charges against Apple, although the two sides have had bruising clashes in the past, most notably a multibillion-dollar tax dispute involving Ireland.   Apple, Spotify and other parties can now respond. If the case is pursued, the EU could demand concessions and potentially impose a fine of up to 10% of Apple's global turnover - as much as $27 billion, although it rarely levies the maximum penalty.   Apple found itself in the European Commission's crosshairs after Sweden-based Spotify complained two years…
Read More

US Aid Arrives as India Grapples with COVID-Triggered Humanitarian Crisis

All, News
The first emergency aid of critical medical supplies arrived in India from the United States on Friday, as the country grapples with a humanitarian crisis after being hit with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.   With the death toll soaring past 200,000, the race to save lives is getting more frantic with India’s health care system virtually crushed under the relentlessly rising numbers.   A U.S. Super Galaxy military transporter brought more than 400 oxygen cylinders and other hospital equipment as well as rapid coronavirus tests to New Delhi.   U.S. officials said that special flights which will also bring equipment donated by companies and individuals, will continue into next week.   President Joe Biden has pledged to support India in its fight against the coronavirus.   Some…
Read More

Alarm Grows in Africa as it Watches India’s COVID-19 Crisis

All, News
Africa is "watching with total disbelief" as India struggles with a devastating resurgence in COVID-19 cases, the continent's top public health official said Thursday, as African officials worry about delays in vaccine deliveries caused by India's crisis.The African continent, with roughly the same population as India and fragile health systems, "must be very, very prepared" since a similar scenario could happen here, John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters.An Indian man sleeps next to a sign urging people to stay at home as a precaution against coronavirus in the premises of a hospital in Hyderabad, India, April 29, 2021."What is happening in India cannot be ignored by our continent," he said, and urged African countries to avoid mass gatherings including political rallies. "We…
Read More

India’s Daily COVID Count Is Almost 400,000

All, News
The daily tally of COVID-19 cases in India continues to climb toward the 400,000 mark. Friday, the health ministry reported 386,452 new infections. The daily toll of new cases has been over 300,000 for nine consecutive days. Indian media are reporting that some public health experts believe that the actual tally of new infections may be at least five times higher than the official count.Aid from the U.S. and other countries arrived in India on Friday. U.S. assistance includes oxygen supplies, rapid diagnostic tests, and vaccine manufacturing materials.The second wave of the coronavirus has pushed India’s health care system to the brink of collapse, with hospitals at full capacity and an acute shortage of oxygen aggravating an already desperate situation. Many parks and parking lots have been converted into makeshift…
Read More

NASA Astronaut Collins Remembered for ‘Carrying the Fire’

All, News
NASA Astronaut Michael Collins, who made history as part of the 1969 Apollo 11 crew to first land a person on the moon, has died at age 90.  In interviews with VOA's Kane Farabaugh, Collins reflected on the importance of the mission and the contributions of the astronauts of his era, while keeping a focus on the future of crewed spaceflight and exploration.Producer and camera: Kane Farabaugh.  ...
Read More

US Wants to Help India Produce Oxygen Fast

All, News
The United States, which has sent emergency aid to India, wants to quickly help the country increase its oxygen capacity to treat patients suffering from COVID-19, a U.S. official said Thursday.A first military plane loaded with equipment, including nearly 1 million rapid screening tests and 100,000 N95 masks, arrived early Friday in New Delhi. The shipment is part of a more than $100 million support plan, according to the White House.The priority "is to try to meet some of their immediate needs to deal with the serious challenges they face in their hospitals," said Jeremy Konyndyk of the U.S. Agency for International Development."We also need to help them address some of the underlying challenges, on the volume of oxygen the country can produce," he told AFP.The United States is discussing…
Read More

Brazil Tops 400,000 Virus Deaths Amid Fears of Renewed Surge

All, News
Brazil on Thursday became the second country to officially top 400,000 COVID-19 deaths, losing another 100,000 lives in just one month, as some health experts warn there may be gruesome days ahead when the Southern Hemisphere enters winter.April was Brazil's deadliest month of the pandemic, with thousands of people losing their lives daily at crowded hospitals.The country's Health Ministry registered more than 4,000 deaths on two days early in the month, and its seven-day average topped out at above 3,100. That figure has tilted downward in the last two weeks, to less than 2,400 deaths per day, though on Thursday, the Health Ministry announced another 3,001 deaths, bringing Brazil's total to 401,186.Local health experts have celebrated the recent decline of cases and deaths, plus the eased pressure on the Brazilian…
Read More

US Government Probes VPN Hack Within Federal Agencies, Races to Find Clues

All, Business, News, Technology
For at least the third time since the beginning of this year, the U.S. government is investigating a hack against federal agencies that began during the Trump administration but was only recently discovered, according to senior U.S. officials and private sector cyber defenders.  It is the latest supply chain cyberattack, highlighting how sophisticated, often government-backed groups are targeting vulnerable software built by third parties as a steppingstone to sensitive government and corporate computer networks.  The new government breaches involve a popular virtual private network (VPN) known as Pulse Connect Secure, which hackers were able to break into as customers used it.  More than a dozen federal agencies run Pulse Connect Secure on their networks, according to public contract records. An emergency cybersecurity directive last week demanded that agencies scan their…
Read More

FDA Moves to Ban Menthol Cigarettes

All, News
Regulators are moving to ban menthol-flavored cigarettes and cigars, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday.The move follows years of pressure from advocates who say that the tobacco products are targeted at African Americans and are responsible for higher death rates in this group from illnesses brought on by smoking.“Today’s action by the FDA to ban menthol-flavored cigarettes, while long overdue, is a major step toward preventing a new generation from becoming tobacco users and saving lives," said Susan R. Bailey, president of the American Medical Association.Companies have aggressively marketed menthol cigarettes in African American communities, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 85% of African Americans who smoke use menthol cigarettes, compared with 46% of Hispanics and 29% of whites, the FDA noted.“For…
Read More

India Struggles with COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign Amid New Infection, Death Rates

All, News
India set new records again Thursday in COVID-19 deaths and infections as its new vaccination registration program stumbled while millions of voters nonetheless turned out for an election in the state of West Bengal.Under the weight of a disastrous second surge of the disease, India’s efforts to begin registering its 1.4 billion people for inoculations stumbled Wednesday when the government launched a website for all Indians 18 and older to sign up for a vaccination drive that is set to begin Saturday.Many people flooded social media with complaints, however, that either the website had crashed or they were unable to make an appointment.The problems with the website come as the health ministry reported a record 379,257 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, including 3,645 fatalities, marking yet another one-day record for fatalities.…
Read More

UN Calls on Countries to Take Action to Prevent Drowning

All, News
The U.N. General Assembly encouraged all countries Wednesday to take action to prevent drownings, which have caused over 2.5 million deaths in the past decade, over 90% of them in low-income and middle-income countries.The resolution, co-sponsored by Bangladesh and Ireland and adopted by consensus by the 193-member world body, is the first to focus on drowning. It establishes July 25 as "World Drowning Prevention Day."The assembly stresses that drowning "is preventable" using "low-cost interventions" and calls on countries to consider introducing water safety, swimming and first aid lessons as part of school curricula. It encourages nations to appoint "a national focal point for drowning prevention," develop countrywide prevention programs, and enact and enforce water safety laws.Unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding but they do reflect…
Read More

US Government Taking Creative Steps to Counter Cyberthreats

All, Business, News, Technology
An FBI operation that gave law enforcement remote access to hundreds of computers to counter a massive hack of Microsoft Exchange email server software is a tool that is likely to be deployed "judiciously" in the future as the Justice Department, aware of privacy concerns, develops a framework for its use, a top national security official said Wednesday.The department this month announced that it had obtained a warrant from a federal judge in Texas to remove web shells, or malicious code that gives hackers a foothold into networks, from hundreds of vulnerable computers affected by a hack that Microsoft has blamed on a group operating from China.The FBI operation was designed to disrupt the effects of a hack that affected many thousands of servers running the Microsoft Exchange email program.…
Read More

Low Pay, Bad Working Conditions, COVID Burnout Spark Likely Global Nursing Shortage

All, News
The International Council of Nurses warned Thursday that the world was facing a nursing crisis and could expect a significant shortage — perhaps a reduction by half — in the global nursing workforce of 27 million in the next few years.The council said its latest survey of 64 national nursing associations found disputes over pay, working conditions, violence and intimidation were causing nurses to leave their profession.There's also the COVID-19 effect. The report found lack of protection and long, stressful shifts were having a profound impact on the mental health of nurses across the globe.ICN Chief Executive Officer Howard Catton said politicians and leaders have recognized the value of nurses in terms of their care and compassion. However, he said, they have not recognized their value to society and compensated…
Read More

Social Media Giants Comply with Turkish Demands

All, Business, News, Technology
The decision by global media giants to comply with demands by the Turkish government to open offices in Turkey is prompting concerns about media freedoms. Press freedom advocates say because the companies will now be subject to Turkish laws, that could mean Turkey's people will no longer have a venue to freely express their views. For VOA, Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul.  ...
Read More

Fauci: New Mask Guidelines Should Motivate People to Get COVID Vaccinations

All, News
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House's chief medical adviser, said Wednesday that the new outdoor mask recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should motivate people to get vaccinated.The CDC said Tuesday that fully vaccinated Americans did not need to cover their faces outdoors unless they were in crowds, and that they could enjoy activities such as exercising outside and eating outdoors at restaurants without masks.In an interview Wednesday with NBC, Fauci, the nation's top infectious-disease expert, said that short of a huge concert or other major gathering, fully vaccinated people could go outside and enjoy the environment without masks. He noted that as vaccination rates rose, infection rates would fall and more restrictions would be lifted.Fauci also disputed reports that young, healthy people should not get vaccinated.…
Read More

World’s Glaciers Melting at Faster Pace

All, News
A study published Wednesday shows nearly all the world’s glaciers have been melting at an accelerated pace in recent years, accounting for rises in sea level over the last two decades.In the study, published in the science journal Nature, an international group of scientists used high resolution imagery from NASA's Terra satellite to study 220,000 of the world’s glaciers between 2000 and 2019.They found those glaciers lost an average of 267 billion tons - 267 gigatons - of ice per year.The study found melting increased over time, from an average of 227 gigatons in the early 2000s, to an average of 298 gigatons each year after 2015.The study showed the melt was raising sea levels by about 0.74 millimeters a year, or 21 percent of overall sea level rise observed…
Read More

American Astronaut Michael Collins of Apollo 11 Fame Dies at 90

All, Business, News, Technology
American astronaut Michael Collins, who stayed behind in the command module of Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969, while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin traveled to the lunar surface to become the first humans to walk on the moon, died on Wednesday at age 90, his family said. A statement released by his family said Collins died of cancer. Often described as the "forgotten" third astronaut on the historic mission, Collins remained alone for more than 21 hours until his two colleagues returned in the lunar module. He lost contact with mission control in Houston each time the spacecraft circled the dark side of the moon. "Not since Adam has any human known such solitude as Mike Collins," the mission log said, referring to the biblical figure. Collins wrote an…
Read More

Future Is Now Made of Virtual Diplomacy

All, Business, News, Technology
America’s reengagement with various international organizations coincides with a weird new era: that of virtual diplomacy. Since the coronavirus pandemic made travel unsafe, world leaders have taken their diplomacy digital, opening up new possibilities for engagement — but also, new concerns about fairness and transparency, and the occasional awkward moment. VOA’s Anita Powell follows this story — virtually, of course — and reports from Johannesburg.Camera: Zaheer Cassim/Nike Ching (cellphone video)    Producer: Jon Spier  ...
Read More

Vaccinated People Can Go Barefaced to Outdoor Gatherings, CDC Says

All, News
Fully vaccinated people can skip the mask when they get together outside with others, vaccinated or not, according to A person wears a mask while jogging, April 27, 2021, near the Capitol in Olympia, Washington.The only time vaccinated people need to wear masks outdoors is when they are in crowds, like at street festivals, parades, farmers markets or political rallies, for example.Keep that mask handy, however. CDC still says to mask up when you go inside. But do go inside, the recommendations say. Indoor dining, movies, haircuts, religious services, exercise classes, and other indoor public spaces all are much safer for vaccinated people than unvaccinated.Just wear a mask.Why wear a mask indoors if you are vaccinated?"At their best, these vaccines are 95% effective," said Vanderbilt University Medical Center infectious diseases professor…
Read More

Heirs of Late Samsung Electronics Chairman to Pay Massive Inheritance Tax

All, Business, News, Technology
The family of the late Lee Kun-hee, the chairman of South Korea’s Samsung Electronics, says it will pay $10.8 billion in taxes on the inheritance from his massive estate, the largest paid in South Korean history. Lee died last October leaving an estate estimated at more than $23 billion.   The family, which includes his wife and three children, says it will split payments of the hefty tax bill in six installments over five years, with the first payment coming this month.  It is believed they will use the shares they hold in the vast family-run conglomerate as a means to pay the taxes.People pass by Samsung Electronics' shop in Seoul, South Korea, April 28, 2021.The Lee family will also donate the late patriarch’s vast collection of fine art to two state-run museums and…
Read More

Kenyan Experts: Pesticides Killing Bees, Forcing Farmers to Hand-Pollinate  

All, News
Kenyan farmers say they are being forced to hand-pollinate their crops due to a decline in bee populations from pesticides. Kenya’s insect experts say the chemicals, meant to kill desert locusts and other pests, are killing off bees and other pollinating insects.   Kenyan farmer Samuel Nderitu says he made a good living from his crops for nearly a decade until 2019, when he noticed neighboring farmers spraying for pests.      His crop yields started dropping, says Nderitu, and he’s convinced it’s because the pesticides killed off pollinating insects like bees.     He has since been forced to hand-pollinate the plants.      "It has been quite successful — not 100% though because that’s not natural," he said.  "The natural one is where the insects transfer the pollen from one plant to another;…
Read More

UK Government Green Lights ‘Self-driving’ Cars on Motorways

All, Business, News, Technology
The UK government on Wednesday became the first country to announce it will regulate the use of self-driving vehicles at slow speeds on motorways, with the first such cars possibly appearing on public roads as soon as this year. Britain's transport ministry said it was working on specific wording to update the country's highway code for the safe use of self-driving vehicle systems, starting with Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) — which use sensors and software to keep cars within a lane, allowing them to accelerate and brake without driver input. The government said the use of ALKS would be restricted to motorways, at speeds under 37 miles (60 km) per hour. The UK government wants to be at the forefront of rolling out autonomous driving technology and the transport ministry forecasts by…
Read More