Mistrust Provokes Attack on Red Cross Volunteers in Ebola-Affected Community in DR Congo

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The The World Health Organization reports that 3,382 cases of Ebola, including 2,232 deaths, have occurred in Congo’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces since the start of the outbreak in August 2018. The epidemic is unfolding in an area affected by a two decades-long conflict that has claimed countless lives.Capobianco says this unstable, dangerous situation has raised fear and hostility in communities toward responders.”The episode was regrettable and I think the expression of the frustration in the communities seeing this Ebola outbreak continuing month after month,” he said. “You know, this is a year-and-a-half now. And, that is a way that the frustration and the fear is manifesting.”  Capobianco says the attack is a sign that the Red Cross needs to do more to build community trust and acceptance. He says the hundreds of volunteers involved in Ebola operations come from the communities in which they work. He says this is one of their strengths.After the volunteers recover from the shock of the attack, he says they will go back into the communities. The Red Cross official says they will talk and listen to what they have to say while continuing to involve them in the Ebola response. 

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US Experts: Last Decade was Hottest Ever Recorded   

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The last 10 years were the hottest decade ever measured on Earth, last year was the second warmest ever and NASA says “you haven’t seen anything yet.”The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday that the average global temperature in the 2010s was 14.7 degrees Celsius, with eight of the 10 hottest years ever recorded.Parts of Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and South America had record-high temperatures in 2019. Alaska’s average temperature was above freezing for the first time in recorded history.Many climate scientists who have seen the study said there was no other explanation for the record-breaking warming than human activity.”This is going to be part of what we see every year until we stabilize greenhouse gases,” said Gavin Schmidt, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “We crossed over into more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit warming territory in 2015 and we are unlikely to go back. This shows that what’s happening is persistent, not a fluke due to some weather phenomenon.”Experts say natural causes of a warmer atmosphere, including more heat from the sun and climate variations, are not big enough to explain the long-term temperature rise.For those who still question global warming, the scientists say all one has to do is look at melting ice sheets, more powerful storms, floods in some parts of the world and drought in others as clear evidence.

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Intellectual Property Theft a Growing Threat

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The new U.S.-China trade agreement includes provisions that are aimed at curbing forced technology transfers, in which companies hand over technical know-how to foreign partners. For many high-tech businesses, the intellectual property behind their products represents the bulk of their companies’ value.  To learn more about the risks of IP theft, Elizabeth Lee recently visited the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where companies talked about the risks to their technology secrets.

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EU Legal Opinion: Mass Data Retention at Odds With EU Law

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A legal adviser at the European Union’s highest court said Wednesday that the bloc’s data protection rules should prevent member states from indiscriminately holding personal data seized from Internet and phone companies, even when intelligence agencies claim that national security is at stake.
In a non-binding opinion on how the European Court of Justice, or ECJ, should rule on issues relating to access by security and intelligence agencies to communications data retained by telecommunications providers, advocate general Campos Sanchez-Bordona said “the means and methods of combating terrorism must be compatible with the requirements of the rule of law.”
Commenting on a series of cases from France, the U.K. and Belgium — three countries that have been hit by extremist attacks in recent years and have reinforced surveillance — Sanchez-Bordona said that the ECJ’s case law should be upheld. He cited a case in which the court ruled that general and indiscriminate retention of communications “is disproportionate” and inconsistent with EU privacy directives.
The advocate general recommended limited access to the data, and only when it is essential “for the effective prevention and control of crime and the safeguarding of national security.”
The initial case was brought by Privacy International, a charity promoting the right to privacy. Referring to the ECJ’s case law, it said that the acquisition, use, retention, disclosure, storage and deletion of bulk personal data sets and bulk communications data by the U.K. security and intelligence agencies were unlawful under EU law.
The U.K.’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal referred the case to the ECJ, which held a joint hearing with two similar cases from France and another one from Belgium.
“We welcome today’s opinion from the advocate general and hope it will be persuasive to the Court,” said Caroline Wilson Palow, the Legal Director of Privacy International. “The opinion is a win for privacy. We all benefit when robust rights schemes, like the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, are applied and followed.”
The ECJ’s legal opinions aren’t legally binding, but are often followed by the court. The ECJ press service said a ruling is expected within two months.
“Should the court decide to follow the opinion of the advocate general, ‘metadata’ such as traffic and location data will remain subject to a high level of protection in the European Union, even when they are accessed for national security purposes,” said Luca Tosoni, a researcher at the Norwegian Research Center for Computers and Law. “This would require several member states — including Belgium, France, the U.K. and others — to amend their domestic legislation.”
  

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China: Possible That New Virus Could Spread Between Humans

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The possibility that a new virus in central China could spread between humans cannot be ruled out, though the risk of transmission at the moment appears to be low, Chinese officials said Wednesday.
    
Forty-one people in the city of Wuhan have received a preliminary diagnosis of a novel coronavirus, a family of viruses that can cause both the common cold and more serious diseases. A 61-year-old man with severe underlying conditions died from the coronavirus on Saturday.
    
While preliminary investigations indicate that most of the patients had worked at or visited a particular seafood wholesale market, one woman may have contracted the virus from her husband, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said in a public notice.
    
The commission said the husband, who fell ill first, worked at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. Meanwhile, the wife said she hasn’t had any exposure to the market.
    
It’s possible that the husband brought home food from the market that then infected his wife, Hong Kong health official Chuang Shuk-kwan said at a news briefing. But because the wife did not exhibit symptoms until days after her husband, it’s also possible that he infected her.
    
Chuang and other Hong Kong health officials spoke to reporters Wednesday following a trip to Wuhan, where mainland Chinese authorities briefed them on the outbreak.
    
The threat of human-to-human transmission remains low, Chuang said, as hundreds of people, including medical professionals, have been in close contact with infected individuals and have not been infected themselves.
    
She echoed Wuhan authorities’ assertion that there remains no definitive evidence of human-to-human transmission.
    
The outbreak in Wuhan has raised the specter of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. SARS is a type of coronavirus that first struck southern China in late 2002. It then spread to more than two dozen countries, killing nearly 800 people.

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National Security Agency Discovers a Major Security Flaw in Microsoft’s Windows Operating System

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The National Security Agency has discovered a major security flaw in Microsoft’s Windows operating system and tipped off the company so that it can fix it.Microsoft made a software patch to fix it available Tuesday and credited the agency as the flaw’s discoverer.The company said it has not seen any evidence that hackers have used the technique discovered by the NSA.”Customers who have already applied the update, or have automatic updates enabled, are already protected,” said Jeff Jones, a senior director at Microsoft, in a statement.Priscilla Moriuchi, who retired from the NSA in 2017 after running its East Asia and Pacific operations, said this is a good example of the “constructive role” that the NSA can play in improving global information security. Moriuchi, now an analyst at the U.S. cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, said it’s likely a reflection of changes made in 2017 to how the U.S. determines whether to disclose a major vulnerability or exploit it for intelligence purposes.The revamping of what’s known as the “Vulnerability Equities Process” put more emphasis on disclosing unpatched vulnerabilities whenever possible to protect core internet systems and the U.S. economy and general public.Those changes happened after a group calling itself “Shadow Brokers” released a trove of high-level hacking tools stolen from the NSA.

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EU Investment Plan Aims for Carbon Neutrality by 2050

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The European Union rolled out a massive, trillion-dollar investment plan Tuesday to deliver on promises to make Europe the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050.The EU would designate one-quarter of its budget to fighting climate change over the next decade. The trillion-dollar price tag would come from a mix of EU and national government funds, as well as investment from the private sector.  It targets the EU’s ambitious goal of ensuring greenhouse emissions reach net zero in 30 years. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who late last year announced that goal — a plan she calls the “Green Deal” — says the investments are for the climate, as well as EU citizens. “It will be invested in the huge transition ahead of us, which consists of upskilling people in new jobs, clean technologies, green financing, new procedures,” she said.FILE – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a media conference after an extraordinary meeting of the EU college of commissioners at EU headquarters in Brussels, Jan. 8, 2020.The plan prioritizes investment to help coal-dependent countries like Poland transition to green energy. Poland is the only EU member that has not yet signed onto the Green Deal, which would support scientists, businesses and other players in the energy transition. Some of the financing is seed money aimed at triggering much bigger investment.  States that want to qualify for funding must present proposals on low-emission projects as part of how they plan to restructure their economies to be climate friendlier.  The European commissioner for budget and administration, Johannes Hahn, detailed the investment plan at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.  “We have no time to waste if we want to deliver results for the citizens,” Hahn said. “Or, again in a nutshell, we provide climate cash in order to avoid a climate crash.”A recent poll shows Europeans fear climate change more than terrorism or losing their jobs.   Still, some EU lawmakers suggest details of the green investment plan are too sketchy. Others believe it should link the funds to deadlines for phasing out coal.  The European Investment Bank, which is mobilizing the chunk of money, announced last year it would end financing for all fossil fuel projects by the end of 2020, and align future financing goals with the Paris climate agreement.  EU lawmakers are expected to hold a non-binding vote Wednesday on the Green Deal. Von der Leyen aims to have climate legislation adopted by March.
 

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New Space Force Chief Sworn in

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Vice President Mike Pence has formally sworn in in Gen. John “Jay” Raymond as the new Chief of Space Operations Tuesday at the White House.Raymond assumed the duties of the first head of the Space Force on December 20, 2019, when U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act that officially launched the new force.”The Space Force will help us deter aggression and control the ultimate high ground,” Trump said at the NDAA signing last month.Officials say the Space Force will organize, train and equip military personnel who primarily focus on space operations.Vice President Mike Pence, right, applauds during swearing in ceremony for Air Force General John Raymond as Chief of Space Operations, in his Ceremonial Office in the White House complex, Jan. 14, 2020 in Washington.Raymond was named commander of the new United States Space Command upon its creation in August of last year. That command, which sought to better organize the U.S. military’s space assets and operations, is being phased out as personnel are transferred to the Space Force.The military’s role in space has come under scrutiny because the U.S. is increasingly reliant on orbiting satellites that are difficult to protect. Satellites provide communications, navigation, intelligence and other services vital to the military and the national economy.The Space Force is the newest military service branch and will fall under the Department of the Air Force, much as the U.S. Marine Corps is a separate service within the Department of the Navy.Officials have said the Space Force will initially include thousands of Air Force service members and civilian personnel currently serving within the Air Force’s Space Command.Personnel from the Army and Navy’s space programs also are eventually expected to be integrated into the new service branch.  

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Oceans Were Hottest on Record in 2019

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The world’s oceans were the hottest in recorded history in 2019, scientists said on Tuesday, as manmade emissions warmed seas at an ever-increasing rate with potentially disastrous impacts on Earth’s climate.Oceans absorb more than 90 percent of excess heat created by greenhouse gas emissions and quantifying how much they have warmed up in recent years gives scientists an accurate read on the rate of global warming.A team of experts from around the world looked at data compiled by China’s Institute of Atmospheric Physics (IAP) to gain a clear picture of ocean warmth to a depth of 2,000 meters over several decades.They found that oceans last year were by far the hottest ever recorded and said that the effects of ocean warming were already being felt in the form of more extreme weather, rising sea levels and damage to marine life.The study, published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, said that last year the ocean was 0.075 Celsius hotter than the historical average between 1981-2010.That means the world’s oceans have absorbed 228 Zetta Joules (228 billion trillion Joules) of energy in recent decades.”That’s a lot of zeros,” said Cheng Lijing, lead paper author and associate professor at the International Center for Climate and Environmental Sciences at the IAP.”The amount of heat we have put in the world’s oceans in the past 25 years equals 3.6 billion Hiroshima atom bomb explosions.”The past five years are the five hottest years for the ocean, the study found.As well as the mid-term warming trend, the data showed that the ocean had absorbed 25 Zetta Joules of additional energy in 2019 compared with 2018’s figure.”That’s roughly equivalent to everyone on the planet running a hundred hairdryers or a hundred microwaves continuously for the entire year,” Michael Mann, director of Penn State’s Earth System Sciences Center, told AFP.Centuries of warming The 2015 Paris accord aims to limit global temperature rises to “well below” 2C, and to 1.5C if at all possible.With just 1C of warming since the pre-industrial period, Earth has experienced a cascade of droughts, superstorms, floods and wildfires made more likely by climate change.The study authors said there was a clear link between climate-related disasters — such as the bushfires that have ravaged southeastern Australia for months — and warming oceans.Warmer seas mean more evaporation, said Mann.”That means more rainfall but also it means more evaporative demand by the atmosphere,” he said.”That in turn leads to drying of the continents, a major factor that is behind the recent wildfires from the Amazon all the way to the Arctic, and including California and Australia.”Hotter oceans also expand, leading to sea level rises.The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in a landmark oceans report last year warned that tens of millions of people could be displaced from coastal areas by the end of the century because of encroaching seas.And given that the ocean has a far higher heat absorption capacity than the atmosphere, scientists believe they will continue to warm even if humanity manages to drag down its emissions in line with the Paris goals.”As long as we continue to warm up the planet with carbon emissions, we expect about 90 percent of the heating to continue to go into the oceans,” said Mann.”If we stop warming up the planet, heat will continue to diffuse down into the deep ocean for centuries, until eventually stabilising.”

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