Day: April 21, 2021

US Olympian Slams Call for China Winter Games Boycott

Clare Egan is an American athlete who qualified for the 2022 U.S. Olympic Team. She competes in the biathalon, a sport that combines the winter survival skills of cross-country skiing with target shooting.As chair of the FILE – Amanda Kessel (28), of the United States, drives the puck against Russia’s Yelena Dergachyova (59) during the third period of a women’s hockey game at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Feb. 13, 2018The quadrennial international games draw vast audiences. In 2018, 1.92 billion people — or 28% of the world’s population — watched the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea, held February 9-25, FILE – Republican Senator Mitt Romney speaks with members of the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 16, 2020.”Rather than send the traditional delegation of diplomats and White House officials to Beijing, the president should invite Chinese dissidents, religious leaders and ethnic minorities to represent us,” he wrote, adding that broadcasters such as NBC, “which has already done important work to reveal the reality of the Chinese Communist Party’s repression and brutality … can refrain from showing any jingoistic elements of the opening and closing ceremonies and instead broadcast documented reports of China’s abuses.”Although world events such as the pandemic have caused cancellations of the Olympics, utilization of the games as a platform to advance human rights has a long and storied history. The U.S. last prohibited athletes from attending the games in 1980, when, along with 66 other countries, it boycotted the Moscow Games over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.  “I know someone personally who missed the 1980 Olympics in Moscow because of that boycott,” said Egan. “And I thought that we have kind of learned our lesson from that, which was that it’s not effective and it’s definitely not fair to use young athletes as political pawns in that way.” Adrianna Zhang contributed to this report.

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Japan Nears Decision on New COVID Emergency Decree

The Japanese government may declare a new state of emergency for the cities of Tokyo and Osaka in response to another surge of COVID-19 infections. The Mainichi newspaper reported Wednesday that Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike is requesting to impose an emergency decree from April 29 to May 9, which coincides with Japan’s annual “Golden Week” public holiday period.   Tokyo and Osaka, along with several other prefectures, are already under a quasi-state of emergency, with restaurants and bars operating under shortened business hours.  Japan as a whole has been under two separate emergency decrees since the start of the pandemic, the last one having just expired on March 21.  The previous decrees stopped short of imposing a legally binding nationwide lockdown, due to Japan’s post-World War II constitution, which weighs heavily in favor of civil liberties.  The new state of emergency, if granted, would leave in place current restrictions on opening hours, and also lead to the closure of theme parks, shopping malls and other facilities. Osaka’s neighboring prefecture of Hyogo is also expected to be covered under the new emergency decree.   Japan has 542,467 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 9,682 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.  The numbers are moderate compared to other nations, but enough to overburden Japan’s healthcare sector and complicate plans for the Tokyo Olympic Games, which are scheduled to begin in July after a one-year delay due to the pandemic.  The Japanese capital posted a record-high 843 confirmed new coronavirus cases on Wednesday.   Also complicating matters is the country’s sluggish vaccination drive, which got off to a slow start due to an acute shortage of vaccines.  More infections in IndiaThe situation remains dire in India, which reported a single-day record 295,041 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, the seventh consecutive day the world’s second-most populous country has recorded more than 200,000 new cases. Health workers and relatives wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) carry the body of a man, who died from COVID-19, at a crematorium in New Delhi, India, Apr. 21, 2021.The latest surge has led to a severe shortage of oxygen canisters, hospital beds and drugs across the nation, and prompted officials in the capital, New Delhi, to impose a week-long lockdown on Monday.  Several large cities have reported COVID-19-linked burials and cremations that far exceed the official tally.  Johnson & Johnson resumes European rollout
On the vaccine front, Johnson & Johnson announced Tuesday it is resuming its European rollout of its one-dose vaccine after the European Medicines Agency, the drug regulator for the European Union, determined the drug’s benefits outweighs the risks of possible blood clots. FILE – The exterior of the European Medicines Agency is seen in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Dec. 18, 2020.The EMA reviewed the Johnson & Johnson vaccine following a small number of reports from the United States of six women between the ages of 18 and 48 developed a rare but serious blood-clotting disorder associated with low levels of blood platelets following vaccination. One woman died and one was hospitalized in critical condition. The agency concluded the drug’s product information should include a warning about the possible side effects, which should be listed as very rare.   In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration jointly called for a pause in the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine last week in response to the six blood clotting cases.     The six women were among the 7 million Americans who have received the vaccine since its approval.     Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said he expects an independent CDC advisory panel to lift the suspension when it meets again later this week. 

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Queen Elizabeth Expresses Thanks for ‘Support and Kindness’

Queen Elizabeth II has expressed her thanks for all the “support and kindness” shown following the death of her husband, Prince Philip.  
In a statement Wednesday posted on social media on her 95th birthday and which she personally signed off as Elizabeth R, the monarch said it has been “a comfort” to “see and to hear all the tributes to my husband” from within the U.K., the Commonwealth and around the world.
“My family and I would like to thank you all for the support and kindness shown to us in recent days,” she said in her first remarks since Philip’s funeral on Saturday.
“We have been deeply touched, and continue to be reminded that Philip had such an extraordinary impact on countless people throughout his life,” she added.
The queen said she had received “many messages of good wishes” for her 95th birthday, which she “very much” appreciated.
She is marking her birthday in a low-key fashion at Windsor Castle. Some members of the royal family are expected to be with her on Wednesday. Her birthday falls within the two-week royal mourning period for Philip that is being observed until Friday.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was one of many people who sent best wishes to the monarch.
“I have always had the highest admiration for Her Majesty and her service to this country and the Commonwealth,” Johnson said on Twitter. “I am proud to serve as her prime minister.”
Philip, also known as the Duke of Edinburgh, died on April 9 at age 99. Family and friends gathered for his funeral at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor on Saturday to say their final farewells.  
His death came a few months before his 100th birthday, which was due to be the focus of royal celebrations this year, while the queen’s 95th was always set to be a more low-key event.

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New Rules Allowing Small Drones to Fly Over People in US Take Effect

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said that final rules announced in December took effect on Wednesday allowing for small drones to fly over people and at night, a significant step toward their eventual use for widespread commercial deliveries.The effective date was delayed about a month during the change in administration. The FAA said its long-awaited rules for the drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, will address security concerns by requiring remote identification technology in most cases to enable their identification from the ground.Previously, small drone operations over people were limited to operations over people who were directly participating in the operation, located under a covered structure, or inside a stationary vehicle – unless operators had obtained a waiver from the FAA.U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Wednesday the rules “are an important first step in safely and securely managing the growing use of drones in our airspace, though more work remains on the journey to full integration” of drones.Drone manufacturers have 18 months to begin producing drones with Remote ID, and operators will have an additional year to provide Remote ID.Companies have been racing to create drone fleets to speed deliveries. As of December, the United States had over 1.7 million drone registrations and 203,000 FAA-certificated remote pilots.For at-night operations, the FAA said drones must be equipped with anti-collision lights. The final rules allow operations over moving vehicles in some circumstances.The new rules eliminate requirements that drones be connected to the internet to transmit location data but do require that they broadcast remote ID messages via radio frequency broadcast.One change, since the rules were first proposed in 2019, requires that small drones not have any exposed rotating parts that would lacerate human skin.
 

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European Union Moves to Regulate Artificial Intelligence

The European Union’s executive branch on Wednesday announced proposals designed to regulate the use of artificial intelligence (AI), banning its use in practices such as surveillance and facial scanning that threaten personal rights.At a news briefing in Brussels, European Commission Executive Vice President and Tech Commissioner Margrethe Vestager noted the benefits of AI in the medical field, agriculture and engineering.“I think those examples illustrate very well what we want AI in Europe to be: a force for progress,” she said.The proposed regulations address the human and societal risks associated with specific uses of AI, such as mass surveillance and biometric identification in public places.The draft EU regulations include rules for other uses of artificial intelligence in some risky categories such as choosing schools, jobs or loan applicants, while banning it outright in cases such as “social scoring” or systems used to manipulate human behavior.The proposals are the bloc’s latest move to maintain its role as the world’s standard-bearer for technology regulation, putting it ahead of the world’s two big tech superpowers, the U.S. and China. EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton told reporters that Europe would become the first continent to provide guidelines over the use of artificial intelligence.The commission is continuing to work out details of the proposals and how they will be enacted with EU member governments and the European Parliament before coming into force.

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Cameroonian Startup Creates Soil Analysis Kit for Farming Efficiency

Cameroon’s agricultural sector employs the majority of the country’s workers, but too many know too little about the soil, resulting in inefficient farming. To help Cameroon’s farmers, a computer engineer created an electronic analysis kit to test soil quality and suitability for crops. Moki Edwin Kindzeka has this report by Anne Nzouankeu in Edéa, Cameroon. Camera: Anne Nzouankeu   Produced by: Jason Godman 
 

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COVID-19, BLM Create New Interest, Opportunities for African Artists

A new Nigerian art gallery opened in Los Angeles this year reflecting a growing international interest in contemporary African art. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee has the details.Camera: Roy Kim, Rodmy Dorcil, Michelle Quinn   

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How Biden Plans to Boost Electric Bus Production

This week the Biden administration is promoting a plan to boost electric bus production, proposing $45 billion spending to reduce American-made bus emissions to zero by 2030. White House correspondent Patsy Widakuswara has this report.

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More Football Teams Exit Super League

Juventus, Atlético Madrid, AC Milan and Inter Milan announced Wednesday they were dropping out of the Super League of 12 leading European football clubs.The development followed the Tuesday withdrawal of six British teams that were part of the project launched this week.Four other teams were included in Sunday’s announcement of the breakaway competition that drew sharp criticism from players, fans and football authorities.Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli said Wednesday that the league can no longer proceed.”I remain convinced of the beauty of that project,” Agnelli told Reuters, saying it would have been the best competition in the world. “But admittedly … I mean, I don’t think that that project is now still up and running.”Clubs yet to announce their withdrawal Wednesday were Barcelona and Real Madrid.Liverpool principal owner John Henry used a video on the team’s website to apologize Wednesday, saying the project “was never going to stand without the support of the fans.”

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Japanese Government Nears Decision on New COVID Emergency Decree

The Japanese government may declare a new state of emergency for the cities of Tokyo and Osaka in response to another surge of COVID-19 infections. The Mainichi newspaper reported Wednesday that Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike is requesting to impose an emergency decree from April 29 to May 9, which coincides with Japan’s annual “Golden Week” public holiday period.   Tokyo and Osaka, along with several other prefectures, are already under a quasi-state of emergency, with restaurants and bars operating under shortened business hours.  Japan as a whole has been under two separate emergency decrees since the start of the pandemic, the last one having just expired on March 21.  The previous decrees stopped short of imposing a legally binding nationwide lockdown, due to Japan’s post-World War II constitution, which weighs heavily in favor of civil liberties.  The new state of emergency, if granted, would leave in place current restrictions on opening hours, and also lead to the closure of theme parks, shopping malls and other facilities. Osaka’s neighboring prefecture of Hyogo is also expected to be covered under the new emergency decree.   Japan has 542,467 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 9,682 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.  The numbers are moderate compared to other nations, but enough to overburden Japan’s healthcare sector and complicate plans for the Tokyo Olympic Games, which are scheduled to begin in July after a one-year delay due to the pandemic.  The Japanese capital posted a record-high 843 confirmed new coronavirus cases on Wednesday.   Also complicating matters is the country’s sluggish vaccination drive, which got off to a slow start due to an acute shortage of vaccines.  More infections in IndiaThe situation remains dire in India, which reported a single-day record 295,041 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, the seventh consecutive day the world’s second-most populous country has recorded more than 200,000 new cases. Health workers and relatives wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) carry the body of a man, who died from COVID-19, at a crematorium in New Delhi, India, Apr. 21, 2021.The latest surge has led to a severe shortage of oxygen canisters, hospital beds and drugs across the nation, and prompted officials in the capital, New Delhi, to impose a week-long lockdown on Monday.  Several large cities have reported COVID-19-linked burials and cremations that far exceed the official tally.  Johnson & Johnson resumes European rollout
On the vaccine front, Johnson & Johnson announced Tuesday it is resuming its European rollout of its one-dose vaccine after the European Medicines Agency, the drug regulator for the European Union, determined the drug’s benefits outweighs the risks of possible blood clots. FILE – The exterior of the European Medicines Agency is seen in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Dec. 18, 2020.The EMA reviewed the Johnson & Johnson vaccine following a small number of reports from the United States of six women between the ages of 18 and 48 developed a rare but serious blood-clotting disorder associated with low levels of blood platelets following vaccination. One woman died and one was hospitalized in critical condition. The agency concluded the drug’s product information should include a warning about the possible side effects, which should be listed as very rare.   In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration jointly called for a pause in the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine last week in response to the six blood clotting cases.     The six women were among the 7 million Americans who have received the vaccine since its approval.     Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said he expects an independent CDC advisory panel to lift the suspension when it meets again later this week. 

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