Remote Washington State Town Becomes Hub for EV Battery Production

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Moses Lake, Washington — It’s mid-winter in east Washington state, yet despite the chilly fog, two construction sites in the town of Moses Lake are brimming with activity. Several hundred workers are on an ambitious timeline to complete two new factories slanted to begin production of the next-generation components for electric vehicle batteries later this year. Two American start-ups, backed by $100 million in federal grants each, in addition to commercial partnerships, are racing to secure the domestic supply chain with the next-generation battery materials for EV automakers. “That's going to go into everything from electric vehicles to IoT [Internet of Things] devices to smartphones and wearables and a lot of battery-based applications that we don't even know exist yet,” explains Nik Anderson, director of program management with Group 14 Technologies,…
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Kenyan Entrepreneur Makes Snacks from Indigenous Grains

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Indigenous African grains such as millet and sorghum are known to be nutritious but are not popular with many, especially the Gen Zers who view the grains as food for the poor. To change this narrative, a Kenyan entrepreneur is using the grains to make snacks and breakfast cereals to promote consumption of indigenous grains and foster environmental sustainability, as Juma Majanga reports from Nairobi. Video by Amos Wangwa. ...
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Third Round of Polio Vaccination Targets High-Risk Counties in Northeastern Kenya

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Nairobi — A polio vaccination campaign that was planned for November but postponed due to heavy rains and floods is finally taking place in three high risk counties in the northeastern part of Kenya. This comes after 13 cases of the so-called circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (CVDPV2) were discovered last year in the area.  This is the third round of polio vaccination targeting three high-risk counties of Mandera, Wajir and Garissa. The goal, according to Kenya’s ministry of health and its partners, is to reach about 750,000 children under the age of five. About 238,000 children ages 6 to 15 in certain areas will also be vaccinated. Aden Ibrahim, Garissa County director of health, explains. “The first case, the sample was collected in June 2023. It was a child which…
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US Syphilis Cases Rise in 2022; Most in 70 Years

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new york — The U.S. syphilis epidemic isn't abating, with the rate of infectious cases rising 9% in 2022, according to a new federal government report on sexually transmitted diseases in adults. But there's some unexpected good news: The rate of new gonorrhea cases fell for the first time in a decade. It's not clear why syphilis rose 9% while gonorrhea dropped 9%, officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, adding that it's too soon to know whether a new downward trend is emerging for the latter. They are most focused on syphilis, which is less common than gonorrhea or chlamydia but considered more dangerous. Total cases surpassed 207,000 in 2022, the highest count in the United States since 1950, according to data released Tuesday. And while…
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Malawi Launches New COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign Amid Rising Cases

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Blantyre, Malawi — The Malawi government and the World Health Organization launched a new COVID-19 vaccination campaign on Monday in 10 of the country’s 29 districts. This is partly in response to new cases confirmed in the past three weeks in several districts across the country. Nsanje District in southern Malawi currently leads in the number of COVID-19 cases recorded this year. George Mbotwa, spokesperson for the district health office, said the district has registered 17 new cases in the past three weeks and some are health workers. “Initially there were two, but we had up to eight cases that were health workers,” he said. “Some of them have now been confirmed as negative, and others are being followed up to ensure that they are fully recovered before they can resume…
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WHO: Great Progress Made in Eliminating Trans Fat

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GENEVA — The World Health Organization says great progress has been made in the global elimination of industrially produced trans fat, with nearly half the world's population protected against the harmful effects of this toxic product. "Five years ago, WHO called on countries and the food sector to eliminate industrially produced trans fats from the food supply. The response has been incredible," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday. "So far, 53 countries have implemented best practice policies, including bans and limits on trans fats, with three more countries on the way. This removes a major health risk for at least 3.7 billion people, or 46% of the world's population. "These policies are expected to save 183,000 lives every year. Just five years ago, only 6% of the world's population was…
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Iran Launches 3 Satellites Into Space

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JERUSALEM — Iran said Sunday it successfully launched three satellites into space, the latest for a program that the West says improves Tehran's ballistic missiles. The state-run IRNA news agency said the launch also saw the successful use of Iran's Simorgh rocket, which has had multiple failures in the past. The launch comes as heightened tensions grip the wider Middle East over Israel's continued war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. While Iran has not intervened militarily in the conflict, it has faced increased pressure within its theocracy for action after a deadly Islamic State suicide bombing earlier this month and as proxy groups like Yemen's Houthi rebels conduct attacks linked to the war. Footage released by Iranian state television showed a nighttime launch for the Simorgh rocket. An Associated Press…
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Avian Flu Outbreaks Roil US Poultry Industry

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PETALUMA, Calif. — Last month, Mike Weber got the news every poultry farmer fears: His chickens tested positive for avian flu. Following government rules, Weber's company, Sunrise Farms, had to slaughter its entire flock of egg-laying hens — 550,000 birds — to prevent the disease from infecting other farms in Sonoma County north of San Francisco. "It's a trauma. We're all going through grief as a result of it," said Weber, standing in an empty hen house. "Petaluma is known as the Egg Basket of the World. It's devastating to see that egg basket go up in flames." A year after the bird flu led to record egg prices and widespread shortages, the disease known as highly pathogenic avian influenza is wreaking havoc in California, which escaped the earlier wave of…
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Dominican Women Fight Child Marriage, Teen Pregnancy Amid Abortion Bans

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AZUA, Dominican Republic —  It was a busy Saturday morning at Marcia González's church. A bishop was visiting, and normally she would have been there helping with logistics, but on this day she was teaching sex education at a local school. "I coordinate activities at the church and my husband is a deacon," González said. "The bishop comes once a year and children are being confirmed, but I am here because this is important for my community." For 40 years, González and her husband have pushed for broader sex education in the Dominican Republic, one of four Latin American nations that criminalizes abortion without exceptions. Women face up to two years in prison for having an abortion; penalties for doctors or midwives range from five to 20 years. With a Bible on…
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Mars Rover Data Confirms Ancient Lake Sediments on Mars 

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los angeles — Data gathered by NASA's Perseverance rover have confirmed the existence of ancient lake sediments deposited by water that once filled a giant basin on Mars called Jezero Crater, according to a study published Friday. The findings from ground-penetrating radar observations conducted by the robotic rover substantiate previous orbital imagery and other data leading scientists to theorize that portions of Mars were once covered in water and may have harbored microbial life. The research, led by teams from the University of California at Los Angeles  and the University of Oslo, was published in the journal Science Advances. It was based on subsurface scans taken by the car-sized, six-wheeled rover as it made its way across the Martian surface from the crater floor onto an adjacent expanse of braided, sedimentary-like features…
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George Carlin Estate Sues Over Fake Comedy Special Purportedly Generated by AI

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LOS ANGELES — The estate of George Carlin has filed a lawsuit against the media company behind a fake hour-long comedy special that purportedly uses artificial intelligence to recreate the late standup comic's style and material.  The lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles on Thursday asks that a judge order the podcast outlet, Dudesy, to immediately take down the audio special, "George Carlin: I'm Glad I'm Dead," in which a synthesis of Carlin, who died in 2008, delivers commentary on current events. Carlin's daughter, Kelly Carlin, said in a statement that the work is "a poorly-executed facsimile cobbled together by unscrupulous individuals to capitalize on the extraordinary goodwill my father established with his adoring fanbase."  The Carlin estate and its executor, Jerold Hamza, are named as plaintiffs in the…
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Central Asia Seen as Key to Breaking China’s Rare Earth Monopoly

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WASHINGTON — U.S. officials hoping to break China's near monopoly on the production of rare earth elements needed for many cutting-edge technologies should engage the governments of Central Asia to develop high concentrations of REEs found in the region, says a new report.  The study by the U.S.-based International Tax and Investment Center warns that a failure to act could leave China with a "decisive advantage" in the sector, which is crucial to green energy, many new weapons systems and other advanced technologies.  "As the uses for these minerals has expanded, so too has global competition for them in a time of sharply increasing geostrategic and geo-economic tension," the report says.  "Advanced economies with secure, reliable access to REEs enjoy economic advantages in manufacturing, and corresponding economic disadvantages accrue for those…
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Rhino’s Pregnancy from Embryo Transfer May Help Nearly Extinct Subspecies 

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NAIROBI, Kenya — Researchers say a rhinoceros was impregnated through embryo transfer in the first successful use of a method that they say might later make it possible to save the nearly extinct northern white rhino subspecies.  The experiment was conducted with the less endangered southern white rhino subspecies. Researchers created an embryo in a lab from an egg and sperm collected from rhinos and transferred it into a southern white rhino surrogate mother at the Ol-Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.  "The successful embryo transfer and pregnancy are a proof of concept and allow [researchers] to now safely move to the transfer of northern white rhino embryos — a cornerstone in the mission to save the northern white rhino from extinction," the group said in a statement Wednesday.  However, the team learned…
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‘Moon Sniper’ Nailed the Landing, Japan’s Space Agency Says

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TOKYO — Japan's "Moon Sniper" craft landed around 55 meters from its target, the country's space agency said Thursday as it released the first images from the mission. The unmanned Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), dubbed the "Moon Sniper" for its pin-point technology, had the goal of touching down within 100 meters of a specific landing spot. That is much more precise than the usual landing zone of several kilometers. "SLIM succeeded in a pin-point soft landing ... the landing point is confirmed to be 55 meters away from the target point," space agency JAXA said. Saturday's soft lunar landing made Japan the fifth nation to achieve the feat, after the United States, Soviet Union, China and India. But celebrations were muted because of a problem with the lightweight spacecraft's…
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Global Study of Doping Cases Involving Minors Points to Russia, India, China

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Montreal — A 10-year global study of positive doping tests by children and young teenagers showed most were tied to Russia, India and China, and in sports like weightlifting, athletics and cycling, the World Anti-Doping Agency said Wednesday. Diuretics, stimulants and anabolic steroids were the most commonly found substances in more than 1,500 positive tests involving more than 1,400 minors since 2012. The youngest athlete tested was 8 years old, and the youngest sanctioned in a doping case was a 12-year-old, WADA said in the Operation Refuge study. "Operation Refuge reports in heartbreaking detail the deep trauma and isolation child athletes experience following a positive test and a doping sanction," the chair of WADA's athlete council, Ryan Pini, said in a statement. It cited the testimony of a female minor "who…
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Zimbabwe Hopeful UN Cholera Vaccines Will Contain Outbreak

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Harare, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwean health authorities — battling a cholera outbreak that has infected about 20,000 people and killed more than 370 — say they hope donated vaccines will ease the spread of waterborne disease now affecting 60 of the country’s 64 districts.     Zimbabwean Health Minister Douglas Mombeshora told reporters in Harare on Wednesday that the country had recorded 20,121 suspected cholera cases and 376 deaths — six of them since Tuesday. He said the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund had secured 2.3 million cholera vaccine doses for the country, with nearly 900,000 of them to be administered next week.   “The vaccination campaign is expected to start from the 29th of January in [a] phased approach to the hot spots,” he said. “This is…
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EU Tools Up to Protect Key Tech From China

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BRUSSELS — The European Union on Wednesday unveiled plans to strengthen the bloc's economic security, including measures to protect sensitive technology from falling into the hands of geopolitical rivals such as China.  Brussels has bolstered its armory of trade restrictions to tackle what it deems to be risks to European economic security, following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine and global trade tensions.  The fallout from the war in Ukraine hit Europe particularly hard, forcing the bloc to find alternative energy sources. Now, it wants to avoid a similar over-reliance on China, which dominates in green technology production and critical raw materials.  On Wednesday, EU officials outlined an economic security package containing five initiatives, including toughening rules on the screening of foreign direct investment and launching discussions on coordination around export controls.  The…
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