Abortion restrictions may stymie miscarriage careby Ellen Goldbaum-Buffalo, about 1 month ago
Care for people who have had a miscarriage may be compromised in states that restrict abortions, a new study shows.
Skiers Seek Climate Change Moves: 'The Seasons Have Shifted'about 1 month ago
Overall World Cup winners Mikaela Shiffrin, Federica Brignone and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde are among nearly 200 athletes from multiple disciplines who have signed a letter addressed to the International Ski and Snowboard Federation demanding action over climate change. The letter was delivered during the skiing world championships after warm weather and a lack of snow wiped out nearly a month of racing at the start of this season, with preseason training on melting European glaciers heading toward extinction and the impact of climate change on the schedule being seen even in January. “It’s about time to address a really important topic,” Kilde said after earning a silver medal in downhill on Sunday. “We see that the world is changing. We see also the impact of our sport. … I want the future generations to experience winter and to be able to do what I do.” The letter was written by Austrian downhiller Julian Schütter, an ambassador for the nonprofit organization Protect Our Winters, known as POW. “We are already experiencing the effects of climate change in our everyday lives and our profession,” the athletes said in the letter. “The public opinion about skiing is shifting towards unjustifiability. … We need progressive organizational action. We are aware of the current sustainability efforts of FIS and rate them as insufficient.” Olympic cross-country skiing champion Jessie Diggins and Freeride World Tour champions Arianna Tricomi and Xavier de le Rue were also among the letter’s signees. “This is our most important race, let’s win it together,” the athletes said. In terms of Alpine skiing, the athletes asked the federation, known as FIS, to shift the start of the season from late October to late November and the end of the season from mid-March to late April. “The seasons have shifted and in the interest of us all we need to adapt to those new circumstances,” they said. Racers also requested a more “geographically reasonable” race schedule to reduce carbon emissions, citing how the men’s circuit will have traveled from Europe to North America and back twice by the end of this season. “The races of Beaver Creek in November and those in Aspen in February are 50 kilometers [30 miles] away from each other,” the skiers said, referring to the two Colorado resorts. “Planning those two races one after the other would reduce approximately 1,500 tons of [carbon emissions]." The athletes also asked FIS to create a sustainability department. There was no immediate response from FIS.
Instead of big gifts, do this for your sweetieby Pate McCuien-U. Missouri, about 1 month ago
The strongest relationships are built on efforts couples make every day, not grand gestures for Valentine's Day, says Kale Monk.
Medal of Honor Monday: Navy Chief Commissary Stewart Daniel Atkins > U.S. Department of Defense > Storyby Katie Lange, about 1 month ago
Navy Chief Commissary Stewart Daniel John Atkins was serving on a ship during the Spanish-American War when a harsh storm blew one of his shipmates overboard. Atkins' bravery trying to save the wayward sailor earned him the Medal of Honor.
A new strategy for western states to adapt to long-term drought: Customized water pricingabout 1 month ago
What a second-century Roman citizen, Lucian, can teach us about diversity and acceptanceabout 1 month ago
Cost of getting sick for older people of color is 25% higher than for white Americans – new researchabout 1 month ago
Studying abroad is poised to make a post-pandemic comeback – here are 5 questions students who plan to study overseas should askabout 1 month ago
Why does the Earth spin?about 1 month ago
Big Oil's trade group allies outspent clean energy groups by a whopping 27x, with billions in ads and lobbying to keep fossil fuels flowingabout 1 month ago
Ukraine Reports ‘Difficult’ Situation Near Bakhmutabout 1 month ago
Ukraine said Monday that Russian forces were hitting the area north of Bakhmut with “intense shelling and storming actions.” Bakhmut, located in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, has been the site of months of heavy fighting with Russia pushing to capture the area. Ukraine’s presidential office said in its daily report that the situation in the village of Paraskoviivka, just north of Bakhmut, was “difficult.” The Ukrainian military reported Russian artillery and tank attacks against 16 settlements in the Bakhmut area. The head of the Russian Wagner paramilitary group claimed Sunday to have taken control of one such village, Krasna Hora. Power cuts During his nightly video address Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised workers’ efforts to restore power systems damaged by drone and missile attacks by Russia on Friday. Zelenskyy said most people had not had to face too many outages on Saturday and Sunday. "The very fact that... after a massive missile strike this week, we can have such peaceful energy days proves the professionalism of our energy workers," he said. "We have to realize: this is not yet a decisive victory on the energy front. Unfortunately, there may be new terrorist attacks from Russia. There may be new restrictions if there is further destruction or growth in consumption." Zelenskyy said scheduled energy outages would once again be in place when the working week started on Monday. Some information came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.
Border Crossings: Julio Iglesias Jr.about 1 month ago
Julio Iglesias, Jr. will release his latest album “Under the Covers” this week. The album is an eclectic mix of hit pop songs in the classic sound of big band and swing. “Under the Covers” features lush renditions of Marvin Gaye’s “What's Going On,” Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” Billy Joel’s “Just The Way You Are,” Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven Is A Place On Earth,” Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You,” and Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” and duets with other special guests including “Careless Whisper” with Jewel and “I’m Too Sexy” with Right Said Fred.
Google to Expand Misinformation 'Prebunking' in Europeabout 1 month ago
After seeing promising results in Eastern Europe, Google will initiate a new campaign in Germany that aims to make people more resilient to the corrosive effects of online misinformation. The tech giant plans to release a series of short videos highlighting the techniques common to many misleading claims. The videos will appear as advertisements on platforms like Facebook, YouTube or TikTok in Germany. A similar campaign in India is also in the works. It's an approach called prebunking, which involves teaching people how to spot false claims before they encounter them. The strategy is gaining support among researchers and tech companies. “There's a real appetite for solutions,” said Beth Goldberg, head of research and development at Jigsaw, an incubator division of Google that studies emerging social challenges. “Using ads as a vehicle to counter a disinformation technique is pretty novel. And we're excited about the results.” While belief in falsehoods and conspiracy theories isn't new, the speed and reach of the internet has given them a heightened power. When catalyzed by algorithms, misleading claims can discourage people from getting vaccines, spread authoritarian propaganda, foment distrust in democratic institutions and spur violence. It's a challenge with few easy solutions. Journalistic fact checks are effective, but they're labor intensive, aren't read by everyone, and won't convince those already distrustful of traditional journalism. Content moderation by tech companies is another response, but it only drives misinformation elsewhere, while prompting cries of censorship and bias. Prebunking videos, by contrast, are relatively cheap and easy to produce and can be seen by millions when placed on popular platforms. They also avoid the political challenge altogether by focusing not on the topics of false claims, which are often cultural lightning rods, but on the techniques that make viral misinformation so infectious. Those techniques include fear-mongering, scapegoating, false comparisons, exaggeration and missing context. Whether the subject is COVID-19, mass shootings, immigration, climate change or elections, misleading claims often rely on one or more of these tricks to exploit emotions and short-circuit critical thinking. Last fall, Google launched the largest test of the theory so far with a prebunking video campaign in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The videos dissected different techniques seen in false claims about Ukrainian refugees. Many of those claims relied on alarming and unfounded stories about refugees committing crimes or taking jobs away from residents. The videos were seen 38 million times on Facebook, TikTok, YouTube and Twitter — a number that equates to a majority of the population in the three nations. Researchers found that compared to people who hadn't seen the videos, those who did watch were more likely to be able to identify misinformation techniques, and less likely to spread false claims to others. The pilot project was the largest test of prebunking so far and adds to a growing consensus in support of the theory. “This is a good news story in what has essentially been a bad news business when it comes to misinformation,” said Alex Mahadevan, director of MediaWise, a media literacy initiative of the Poynter Institute that has incorporated prebunking into its own programs in countries including Brazil, Spain, France and the U.S. Mahadevan called the strategy a “pretty efficient way to address misinformation at scale, because you can reach a lot of people while at the same time address a wide range of misinformation.” Google's new campaign in Germany will include a focus on photos and videos, and the ease with which they can be presented of evidence of something false. One example: Last week, following the earthquake in Turkey, some social media users shared video of the massive explosion in Beirut in 2020, claiming it was actually footage of a nuclear explosion triggered by the earthquake. It was not the first time the 2020 explosion had been the subject of misinformation. Google will announce its new German campaign Monday ahead of next week's Munich Security Conference. The timing of the announcement, coming before that annual gathering of international security officials, reflects heightened concerns about the impact of misinformation among both tech companies and government officials. Tech companies like prebunking because it avoids touchy topics that are easily politicized, said Sander van der Linden, a University of Cambridge professor considered a leading expert on the theory. Van der Linden worked with Google on its campaign and is now advising Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, as well. Meta has incorporated prebunking into many different media literacy and anti-misinformation campaigns in recent years, the company told The Associated Press in an emailed statement. They include a 2021 program in the U.S. that offered media literacy training about COVID-19 to Black, Latino and Asian American communities. Participants who took the training were later tested and found to be far more resistant to misleading COVID-19 claims. Prebunking comes with its own challenges. The effects of the videos eventually wears off, requiring the use of periodic “booster” videos. Also, the videos must be crafted well enough to hold the viewer's attention, and tailored for different languages, cultures and demographics. And like a vaccine, it's not 100% effective for everyone. Google found that its campaign in Eastern Europe varied from country to country. While the effect of the videos was highest in Poland, in Slovakia they had “little to no discernible effect,” researchers found. One possible explanation: The videos were dubbed into the Slovak language, and not created specifically for the local audience. But together with traditional journalism, content moderation and other methods of combating misinformation, prebunking could help communities reach a kind of herd immunity when it comes to misinformation, limiting its spread and impact. “You can think of misinformation as a virus. It spreads. It lingers. It can make people act in certain ways," Van der Linden told the AP. "Some people develop symptoms, some do not. So: if it spreads and acts like a virus, then maybe we can figure out how to inoculate people.”
New Zealand City Grinds to Halt as Deluge from Cyclone Loomsabout 1 month ago
Auckland residents hunkered down Monday as they braced for a deluge from Cyclone Gabrielle, two weeks after a record-breaking storm swamped New Zealand's largest city and killed four people. Much of Auckland ground to a halt as train services were canceled, libraries and most schools were closed, and authorities asked people to make only essential trips. Air New Zealand canceled all domestic flights to and from Auckland through Tuesday morning, as well as many international flights. Some international routes would continue operating, the airline said, although they might need to be diverted from Auckland. The carrier also canceled domestic flights to and from the cities of Hamilton, Tauranga and Taupo. In all, Air New Zealand canceled more than 500 flights. More than 10,000 international customers had been affected, the airline said, with thousands still to be rebooked. The cyclone, which was moving south, dumped more than 220 millimeters (9 inches) of rain in areas north of Auckland, cutting power to about 58,000 households and forcing many roads to close. About 46,000 homes remained without power Monday afternoon. Authorities declared a state of emergency in Northland, Auckland and some other regions, and were asking some residents in low-lying areas to evacuate. Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the weather had made the start of the year "incredibly challenging” for people in Auckland and other northern areas. “Extreme weather event has come on the back of extreme weather event,” Hipkins said. “For families and businesses, I know that that has been just exhausting, and I want to acknowledge how hard many of them are doing it.” Gabrielle was expected to pass Auckland overnight Monday. Its windspeed was downgraded as gusts abated to about 130 kilometers per hour (80 miles per hour). Weather forecaster MetService said there was a very high likelihood of “extreme, impactful, and unprecedented weather" over many regions, with heavy rain, strong winds and large waves. With Hipkins and some other lawmakers unable to immediately travel from Auckland to the capital, Wellington, some events scheduled for this year's opening session of Parliament were rescheduled, including Hipkins' statement outlining his priorities for the year, which has been moved from Tuesday to Wednesday. Two weeks ago, Aucklanders experienced the wettest day ever recorded in the city, as the amount of rain that would typically fall over an entire summer hit in a single day. Quickly rising floodwaters and landslides killed four people, caused widespread disruption and left hundreds of homes unlivable.
In India, Power of Podcasts Keeps Listeners Connectedabout 1 month ago
Working for global nonprofits in the early 2000s, Padma Priya and her colleagues Rakesh Kamal and Tarun Nirwan noticed that the regular news cycle didn’t always reflect day-to-day life. “We were seeing these very real issues being played out and people and communities being impacted, but their stories were not really coming out and not getting the prominence that they deserve,” Priya told VOA. So in 2018, the team launched Suno India to bring attention to underreported stories in a format easily accessible to broad audiences: Podcasts. “We were all avid podcast listeners, and we knew that podcasts can make an impact, can get through to people, can give a break from the screen,” she said. At that time, few outlets in India were producing audio journalism. With all FM news stations in the country controlled by the government-run All India Radio, podcasts offered a platform not previously available to independent journalists. Despite coming from a print background — Priya has worked for outlets including The Hindu and The Wire — the journalist and her co-founders found the medium easy to work with. It’s a format that helped them bring diverse voices into the newsroom and start a fellowship for early and mid-career journalists. Another unexpected benefit: Sources are often more willing to participate when they don’t have to appear on camera. “I saw that this was a medium which gives an anonymity to people,” Priya told VOA. “And the kind of topics we have chosen, and we continue to choose, sometimes are sensitive. Not everybody is willing to put their face in front of a camera, but they're willing to lend their voice.” Broad reach Suno India covers issues including adoption, tuberculosis and rare diseases. The team also reports on climate change, the economy, and what they call “cyber democracy”—the intersection of digital rights and democracy. To date, they’ve produced about 25 series, and they broadcast in English, Hindi and Telugu. Most listeners come to the podcast to understand issues in their communities, but Priya said policymakers, doctors, and other stakeholders also listen in for factual reporting on bigger societal problems. Despite their broad reach, podcasts remain an “intimate form of communication and storytelling,” said Mary Fitzgerald, director of expression for Open Society Foundations, an organization that provides funding and other support to independent groups, including journalists. Audio portrays nuance in a way that print journalism cannot, creating an experience that comes across as both vivid and personal, said Fitzgerald. In India, podcasts have helped outlets like Suno India to reach communities and cover underreported stories. But in more repressive countries, the medium can play an additional role. “Podcasts are much harder to censor. They’re much harder to target the makers of,” Fitzgerald told VOA. Speaking broadly about how podcasting can help media globally, Fitzgerald said, “You can podcast from one location and reach audiences that might be in a very repressive environment. And you can cut through the propaganda or censorship that those populations might be subjected to.” The medium can also help journalists to gather and share news when it is difficult to have reporters out in the field. When protests erupted in India in 2019 over a new citizenship law and the internet was restricted in certain areas of the country, the team at Suno India used the messaging app WhatsApp to connect with sources. Reporters sent questions as voice notes that their sources could download and respond to after they’d reached areas with internet access. “We realized there was a lot of power in using WhatsApp voice messages in this way,” said Priya. The method proved useful again during the pandemic lockdowns when millions of migrant workers fled cities for remote villages. With in-person meetings no longer an option, Suno India relied on WhatsApp to conduct interviews and get the news out. Priya and her team connected with farmers in rural regions who, during harvest season in March and April 2020, were not permitted in the fields due to the lockdowns. Through voice notes, the farmers were able to share their challenges and coping methods with podcast listeners. Similarly, the team was able to connect with doctors in Kashmir when high-speed internet bans were instituted after Delhi revoked the region’s autonomous status. “Of course, the best thing would be to go there and sit in front of a person and report, but that's not always possible,” Priya said. “For us during those times, [WhatsApp messaging] seemed like the only way to get those voices in and keep the reporting going.” For independent news outlets in India, foreign funding is prohibited, and finding the financial means to keep reporting can be a challenge. Priya said just as it’s the responsibility of journalists to produce factual, well-researched content, it’s the listeners’ responsibility to support their local newsrooms. “We've seen that not investing in the right kind of media means there’s going to be more misinformation. There's going to be more propaganda. There's going to be more fake news. And that has direct repercussions on government officials getting elected, on democracy itself, and on civil liberties,” Priya said.
Crew Temporarily Blinded by Chinese Laser, Philippines Saysabout 1 month ago
The Philippine Coast Guard said Monday that when China’s coast guard aimed a “military grade” laser earlier this month at a Philippine crew, the light temporarily blinded the crew members. The ships were in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. Images of the incident show a green light coming from the Chinese ship. Other countries have also accused China of the same thing. The Philippine crew was delivering food and supplies to military personnel stationed on a ship in Second Thomas Shoal, 195 kilometers off the Philippine province of Palawan. The Philippine coast guard also accused the Chinese ship of making “dangerous maneuvers” as it approached the Philippine vessel. China claims the entire South China Sea, but other countries have also laid claim to portions of the sea. Some information in this report came from Reuters.
Woman Rescued in Turkey More Than a Week After Earthquakeabout 1 month ago
Rescuers in southern Turkey pulled a woman from the rubble of a building Monday, more than a week after a series of powerful earthquakes struck the region. The rescue of the 40-year-old in the town of Islahiye, in Gaziantep province, came as experts warned the window is closing for finding more people alive in what remains of collapsed buildings. Turkish authorities have reported at least 29,605 deaths from the massive earthquake centered in the Gaziantep region. Across the border in northern Syria, the United Nations humanitarian office said Monday the death toll there had topped 4,300, with another 7,600 injured. International search and rescue teams as well as medical and other aid have poured into Turkey since the earthquake hit in the early morning hours of February 6. Getting aid into earthquake-hit parts of Syria has been a bigger challenge, with outside deliveries restricted to a single crossing at the Turkey-Syria border. Shipments from government-controlled areas to rebel-held areas have been held up amid negotiations with the various parties to allow humanitarian access. “We have so far failed the people in north-west Syria,” U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths tweeted Sunday as he visited the region. “They rightly feel abandoned.” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield urged the U.N. Security Council to immediately vote on a resolution to authorize additional border crossings to deliver humanitarian aid to Syria. “Right now, every hour matters,” she said in a statement late Sunday. “We have heard the calls from UN leadership that the Security Council needs to authorize two additional crossings to help deliver lifesaving aid to people in the northwest of Syria. People in the affected areas are counting on us. They are appealing to our common humanity to help in their moment of need.” Investigation Turkey is targeting 134 contractors and others for alleged shoddy and illegal construction methods. Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag has vowed to punish anyone responsible for the collapse of thousands of buildings. He said Sunday that to date three people had been arrested pending trial, seven people detained and seven others barred from leaving the country. Prosecutors have begun gathering samples of buildings for evidence of the materials that were used in their construction. The quakes were powerful, but victims and technical experts are blaming bad construction – and lax enforcement of building codes — for worsening the devastation. Two contractors reportedly attempting to leave the country for Georgia were detained by authorities Sunday at Istanbul Airport. The contractors were held responsible for the alleged shoddy construction of several collapsed buildings in Adiyaman, the private DHA news agency and other media reported. One of the arrested contractors, Yavuz Karakus, told reporters, "My conscience is clear. I built 44 buildings. Four of them were demolished. I did everything according to the rules," DHA reported. Two more people were arrested in Gaziantep province suspected of having cut down columns to make extra room in a building that collapsed, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. The VOA Turkish Service contributed to this report, which includes some information from The Associated Press.
Australia to Grant Permanent Visas to Thousands of Refugeesabout 1 month ago
Thousands of refugees across Australia who have lived on temporary visas for years will be eligible to permanently stay under new rules, starting Monday. Australia has, however, reiterated its support for controversial border protection measures. Around 19,000 people who arrived in Australia before the start of Operation Sovereign Borders in 2013 will be covered by the changes. The center-left government promised last year to abolish Temporary Protection and Safe Haven Enterprise Visas, which were described as cruel by human rights groups. Immigration Minister Andrew Giles told local media Monday that it made “no sense” to keep refugees “in limbo.” Those granted a new visa will have the same rights as other permanent residents in Australia. They will have access to welfare payments and higher education support. They will also be able to become citizens and will be able to sponsor relatives to come to Australia. Jana Favero, director of advocacy at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, a rights organization, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Monday the new visas will change lives. “This change is truly monumental in the lives of people who are on temporary protection visas as they can now get on with and rebuild their lives, see their family and have the permanency and safety that they deserve,” Favero said. However, Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil has reiterated the government's support for the decade-old border policy and has both warned asylum-seekers not to try to come to Australia by boat and said they would not be allowed to stay if they did. Under Operation Sovereign Borders, the navy has been towing or turning away migrant boats trying to reach Australian waters. The policy has been condemned by rights groups. Opposition lawmakers say the new visa changes will encourage more asylum-seekers to try to reach Australia by sea and would “enliven opportunities for people smugglers.”
Australia Announces $292 Million Plan to Address Indigenous Disadvantagesabout 1 month ago
On the 15th anniversary of its historic apology to Australia’s Stolen Generations, the government has announced a $292 million plan to address Indigenous disadvantage. The money will be spent in areas such as housing, food, education and water supplies. In 2008, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologized to First Nations people who had been forcibly removed from their families over successive generations until the early 1970s. The apology was an acknowledgement that successive governments had failed Indigenous Australians. Fifteen years later, the center-left Labor government conceded that Australia needs to do much more to tackle disadvantage in First Nations communities. The 2022 annual report on closing the gap between the health and well-being of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians found only limited progress had been made. On Monday, the Canberra government released its new Closing the Gap Implementation Plan, which allocates $292 million to improve First Nations housing, education and water infrastructure and make food more affordable in remote areas. Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Monday that the funding will improve basic services. “There are many communities — remote Aboriginal communities — in Australia that do not have clean drinking water, cannot have dialysis because the water is not clean enough for the dialysis machines despite the fact that renal failure is such an issue in our communities,” Burney said. Indigenous Australians make up about 3% of Australia’s population of 25 million people. First Nations history dates back an estimated 65,000 years, but campaigners insist that the impact of European colonization in the late 1800s was, and remains, catastrophic. Community groups argue that the loss of customary land, discrimination and marginalization has left Aboriginal communities with disproportionately high rates of poverty, imprisonment and ill-health. On average, life expectancy for Indigenous Australians is about eight years less than for their non-Aboriginal counterparts. Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians Malarndirri McCarthy told local media that the plan announced Monday would help "turn the tide" toward improving the lives of Australia's original inhabitants.
Latest Developments in Ukraine: Feb. 13about 1 month ago
For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine. The latest developments in Russia's war on Ukraine. All times EST. 12:01 a.m.: Specialists from Russia's defense ministry are building a water pipeline system that would connect the country's Rostov region bordering Ukraine with the Donbas region inside Ukraine, the state TASS news agency reported late on Sunday, according to Reuters. Moscow last year claimed the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which make up the broader Donbas region in Ukraine, as "republics" of Russia, in a move condemned by most members of the United Nations as illegal. The project, to be completed in the next few months, will have the capacity to carry 300,000 cubic meters of water per day and will include two 200-km (124-mile) lines, TASS reported, citing the defense ministry. "More than 2,600 specialists ... from the Russian Ministry of Defence and over 1,000 units of equipment are involved around the clock in the construction," TASS cited an unnamed defense representative as saying. The structure will pass through the territory of the Rostov region in Russia and into the Donetsk region to the Severskiy Donets-Donbas Canal, which extends from the Donets River near the village of Raihorodok to the city of Donetsk. The water situation in the Donbas region, which has few resources, has been critical. The region depends on large-scale pipelines that have been damaged by nearly a year of fighting and which require electricity that is often interrupted. Some information in this report came from Reuters.
Chiefs Defeat Eagles in Super Bowlabout 1 month ago
The Kansas City Chiefs rallied to beat the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35 in Super Bowl 57 on Sunday and claim their second NFL title in four seasons. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes looked barely affected after aggravating an ankle injury late in the first half as the Chiefs erased a 10-point halftime deficit to add the title to the one that capped their 2019 season.
What We Know About Mysterious Objects Downed by USabout 1 month ago
The downing of a huge Chinese balloon off the U.S. coast, followed by the shootdowns of two smaller objects over Alaska and Canada — and another over Lake Huron on Sunday — has raised concerns about North American security and further strained relations with China. Here is what we know so far: What were the four objects? The drama began in late January, when a giant Chinese balloon — dubbed a spy craft by U.S. officials — drifted for days through U.S. skies before being shot down February 4 by an F-22 jet off the South Carolina coast. China insisted the balloon was conducting weather research. The Pentagon said it had a gondola the size of three buses and weighed more than a ton; that it was equipped with multiple antennas and had solar panels large enough to power several intelligence-gathering sensors. Then Friday, U.S. fighter jets downed another object off northern Alaska, the military said, adding it was "within U.S. sovereign airspace over U.S. territorial water." It lacked any system of propulsion or control, officials said. On Saturday, a U.S. F-22 jet, acting on U.S. and Canadian orders, downed a "high-altitude airborne object" over Canada's central Yukon territory, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the U.S. border, saying it posed a threat to civilian flight. Canada described it as cylindrical and smaller than the initial balloon. Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand would not speculate on whether it originated in China. On Sunday, Biden ordered U.S. warplanes to down an unidentified object over Lake Huron "out of an abundance of caution," a senior administration official said. The object was described as an octagonal structure with strings hanging off it and was not deemed to be a military threat to anything on the ground but could have posed a hazard to civil aviation as it flew at about 20,000 feet (6,000 meters) Michigan, the official said. U.S. Senate majority leader Charles Schumer, who was briefed by the Biden administration following the incident over the Yukon, said Sunday — before the Lake Huron incident — that the previous two objects were likely balloons, "but much smaller than the first one," both flying at around 40,000 feet (12,200 meters). Officials described the second and third objects as about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. Only the first object so far has been attributed to Beijing. What has been recovered? Military teams working from planes, boats and minisubs are scouring the shallow waters off South Carolina for the first object, and military images showed the recovery of a large piece of balloon. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is taking custody of the debris for analysis. Operations to recover the second object continue on sea ice near Deadhorse, Alaska. "Arctic weather conditions, including wind chill, snow and limited daylight, are a factor," the military said. Recovery teams — backed by a Canadian CP-140 patrol aircraft — are searching for debris from the third object in the Yukon, Anand said Saturday. The Pentagon said the FBI is working closely with Canadian police. No information was immediately available about recovery of the fourth object. What was the objects' purpose? U.S. officials say images of the first balloon show it had surveillance equipment that could intercept telecommunications. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said it was intended "to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States." A former chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Michael Mullen, suggested China, or some in its military leadership, intentionally wanted to subvert an impending visit by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The United States has said the balloons were part of a "fleet" that has spanned five continents. Some analysts say it may be the start of a major Chinese surveillance effort targeting foreign military capabilities ahead of possible acute tensions over Taiwan in coming years. Why so many objects now? Analysts said U.S. and Canadian intelligence constantly receive huge amounts of raw data, and generally screened some out to focus on the threat of incoming missiles, not slow-moving objects like balloons. "Now, of course, we're looking for them. So I think we're probably finding more stuff," Jim Himes, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told NBC. Officials have said three balloons are now known to have briefly overflown U.S. territory during Donald Trump's administration — undetected at the time — and one earlier in Joe Biden's term. What's the impact on US-China ties? The United States scrapped Blinken's visit, intended to stabilize severely strained relations, and has sanctioned six Chinese entities believed to support military spy balloon programs. Beijing denounced the first balloon's downing, saying it "seriously violated international practice." It reserved the right "to use necessary means to deal with similar situations." There has been no Chinese reaction to the latest downings.
Rihanna Performs Hits at Super Bowl — With a Very Special Guestabout 1 month ago
Rihanna made her long-awaited return to the stage at the Super Bowl with a career-spanning medley of pop bangers, but it was her baby bump that dominated the conversation. The megastar appeared in the stadium midair on a floating stage, donning a clingy, all-red ensemble featuring a molded bustier — and a belt below what many viewers deduced was another mini RiRi in the making. Representatives for the singer confirmed the speculation to trade magazines Rolling Stone and The Hollywood Reporter: Rihanna is pregnant with her second child. The 34-year-old welcomed her first child, a son, with rapper A$AP Rocky in May. Musically speaking, fans who hoped for some fresh tracks were disappointed: Rihanna's night on the world's biggest stage offered a nostalgia tour of hits from the past. She delivered her club smashes including "Where Have You Been" to "Only Girl (In the World)" and the time-tested "We Found Love." "Rude Boy," "Work" and "All of the Lights" were also on the setlist, as a sea of dancers performed stunning acrobatics. "Wild Thoughts," "Run This Town" and, of course, "Umbrella" and "Diamonds" rounded out the show. She did not, as many stars do, bring out any guest artists, commanding the stage all on her own. The evening marked a reversal after Rihanna had previously turned down the gig in protest of the National Football League's handling of race issues. But in accepting the coveted slot this time around, the Barbados-born singer said it was "important for representation." "It's important for my son to see this,” she said. Since releasing "Anti" in early 2016, Robyn Rihanna Fenty has taken a break from recording but has by no means taken it easy: she's become a billionaire, parlaying her music achievements into successful makeup, lingerie and high-fashion brands. Since her last album Rihanna has performed occasional features and more recently recorded music for the "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" soundtrack.
Kansas City Chiefs Beat Philadelphia Eagles 38-35 in Super Bowlabout 1 month ago
The Kansas City Chiefs rallied to beat the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35 in Super Bowl 57 on Sunday and claim their second NFL title in four seasons. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes looked barely affected after aggravating an ankle injury late in the first half as the Chiefs erased a 10-point halftime deficit to add the title to the one that capped their 2019 season.
California 2024 US Senate Contest Kicks Off at Furious Paceabout 1 month ago
California's U.S. Senate race is unfolding at a furious pace, with candidates reporting seven-figure fundraising and holding competing rallies and campaign events more than a year before the 2024 primary election. The fight for the safely Democratic seat held by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who at 89 is the oldest member of Congress, is shaping up as a marquee match-up between nationally known rivals and is likely to become one of the most expensive Senate races in the country next year. On Saturday, Democratic U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, who rose to prominence as the lead prosecutor in former President Donald Trump's first impeachment trial, gathered hundreds of supporters in a union hall parking lot for a rally in his hometown of Burbank, California, where he implored the cheering crowd, "Let's go win this thing." Schiff, who announced his candidacy last month, said he was running for Senate after two decades in Congress "to build an economy that works for everyone, a democracy that will last for all time and a planet that doesn't melt beneath our feet." A day earlier, Democratic U.S. Rep. Katie Porter brought her Senate campaign to Los Angeles, where she met with local leaders to discuss pollution in lower-income neighborhoods. She said such areas are often overlooked in Washington and Sacramento, where residents' complaints about unhealthy conditions go unheard. Porter, a leader in Congress' progressive wing, built a reputation for her tough questioning of CEOs and other witnesses at congressional hearings — often using a whiteboard to break down information. Other potential contenders for the seat include Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. If she runs and is elected, Lee would be the only Black woman in the Senate. Feinstein has yet to say if she will seek a seventh term. In recent years, questions have arisen about her cognitive health and memory, though she has defended her effectiveness. However, her reticence about her future has created a publicly awkward dynamic — the race to replace her is rapidly taking shape, even as the senator remains unclear about her intentions. Schiff's rally, held on a nippy, mostly overcast morning, marked the start of a two-week statewide tour, with stops to include San Diego, Sacramento, Fresno and San Francisco. He was joined by his wife, Eve, one of his two children, Alexa, and David McMillan, whom the congressman mentored as a youth and considers part of his family. After recounting his career as a federal prosecutor, state legislator and member of Congress, Schiff made clear he would anchor his campaign to his role as impeachment manager and Trump's chief antagonist in Congress. He has been a frequent target of conservatives — Trump in particular — since the then-GOP-led House Intelligence Committee he served on started investigating Trump's ties to Russia in the 2016 election. He mentioned "democracy" more than a half-dozen times in the speech. He's selling T-shirts and coffee mugs on his campaign website, with the slogan "Democracy Matters." He called Trump, who has announced his 2024 campaign for the presidency, "a demagogue bent on destroying our democracy." "We investigated Trump. We impeached him. We held him accountable and then we defeated him at the ballot box," Schiff said to cheers. "And we will defeat him again, if the GOP is foolish enough to nominate him. He will never see the inside of the Oval Office, never again." Trump was impeached in December 2019 on charges he abused the power of the presidency to investigate rival Joe Biden and obstructed Congress' investigation. The Republican-led Senate acquitted Trump of both charges. In 2021, he became the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice, this time for inciting the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol after he lost the 2020 election. He was again acquitted by the Senate. Schiff's other foundational issues include fighting climate change and improving the economy. "Too many people are working multiple jobs but cannot pay the rent, afford groceries or pay for lifesaving medication," he said. "Too many children are growing up in poverty and hungry." Schiff and Porter, both prolific small-dollar fundraisers, already are dueling over campaign dollars and endorsements. Former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco is backing Schiff, providing Feinstein retires, and Porter is supported by Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Democrats are expected to dominate the contest in the famously liberal state — a Republican hasn't won a statewide race in California since 2006, and the past two Senate elections had only Democrats on the November ballot.
Germany to Ease Visa Conditions for Some Earthquake Victimsabout 1 month ago
The German government wants to temporarily ease visa restrictions for survivors of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria who have close family ties to Germany if they are facing homelessness or were injured. "It's about helping in times of need. We want to make it possible for Turkish or Syrian families in Germany to bring close relatives from the disaster region," German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser tweeted late Saturday. "They can find shelter with us and receive medical treatment," Faeser said. "With regular visas, which are issued quickly and are valid for three months." However, not all the requirements of a regular visa procedure are being waived. Applicants must still be able to present a valid passport — likely to be an obstacle for people who fled collapsing buildings. Several million people in Germany have Turkish roots because, more than 60 years ago, West Germany recruited "guest workers" from Turkey and elsewhere to help the country advance economically. More recently, hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees came to Germany looking for safety from the brutal civil war back home. Turkish and Syrian immigrants in Germany have been collecting aid, sending donations and worrying for their relatives back home. Calls to allow them to take in close family members from the devastated regions had been growing for days. The German government said it would ease the normally very strict and bureaucratic visa conditions quickly, adding that the foreign ministry had already both increased its staff in Turkey and redeployed capacity at visa acceptance centers there. Earthquake victims who wish to seek refuge in Germany and want to apply for a three-month visa need to prove that they have close family members in Germany who have German citizenship or a permanent right of residence, German news agency dpa reported. The German host family member must submit a declaration promising to pay for the living expenses and subsequent departure of the person taken in.
Houthi-Run Court in Yemen Upholds Prison Term Against Actressabout 1 month ago
A court run by Yemen's Iran-backed rebels on Sunday upheld a five-year sentence against a female actor and one of her companions who were convicted of committing an indecent act and having drugs in her possession, her lawyer said. The arrest of Intisar al-Hammadi and the three other women in February 2021 — as well as the court proceedings against them — have been widely criticized by international rights groups. The case has mirrored widespread Houthi repression and crackdown on women in areas they control in war-torn Yemen. Al-Hammadi and one of the women were first sentenced in November 2021 to five years. The other two were handed one and three years in prison, respectively. The Court of Appeals in the Houthi-held capital of Sanaa upheld the sentences against al-Hammadi and Yousra al-Nashri, who was also handed a five-year sentence, according to lawyer Khalid al-Kamal, who represents all four women. Al-Hammadi, who is also a model, was born to a Yemeni father and an Ethiopian mother. She has worked as a model for four years and acted in two Yemeni soap drama series in 2020. She was the sole breadwinner for her four-member family, including her blind father and a disabled brother. Human Rights Watch has previously criticized the court proceedings as "marred with irregularities and abuse." It said the Houthis confiscated al-Hammadi's phone and "her modeling photos were treated like an act of indecency." Yemen has been convulsed by civil war since 2014 when Iran-backed Houthi rebels seized the capital of Sanaa, forcing the internationally recognized government to flee to the south, then to Saudi Arabia. A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015 to try to restore the government to power. In the Houthi-held areas, women who dare dissent, or even enter the public sphere, have become targets in an escalating crackdown by the Iran-backed rebels.
Richard E. Grant Brings Enthusiasm as BAFTA Film Awards Hostabout 1 month ago
There is no bigger cheerleader of awards season than Richard E. Grant. He brings joy to the red carpet, snapping selfies with stars and posting congratulations to nominees on social media. Now this enthusiasm has been tapped to host the EE BAFTA Film Awards on February 19 at the Royal Festival Hall. "I'm an unabashed fan of movies and of talent and always have been. I've never been disingenuous or, you know, blasé about that," he says. "I probably have to restrain myself from permanently taking selfies with every nominee and winner coming up on the stage." "From that point of view, I am the right fit for the job, hopefully," he says. Grant also knows how it feels to participate in awards season and sit, nervously, waiting for that career changing envelope to be opened. He was nominated as supporting actor at both the BAFTAs and Oscars in 2019 for "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" And he's aware that, as a working actor, hosting has its challenges. "Traditionally if you're a comedian, your role is very clear to roast the audience. Whereas I'm an actor and, you know, even though I'm the vast vintage that I am now, I still want to work and collaborate with directors and actors and writers for the remainder of my breathing days. So roasting them is not really an option and not something that I want to do." When asked if there will be any humor in the ceremony — Grant has jokes. "No, it's going to be very, very serious. There'll be no jokes and it will be … it'll be brutally earnest," he says, laughing. Rebel Wilson got mixed reviews for her joke heavy turn as the BAFTA ceremony emcee last March, which at one point involved a cake of Benedict Cumberbatch's face. This year, "All Quiet on the Western Front" leads the nominees with 14. "The Banshees of Inisherin" and "Everything Everywhere All at Once" both have 10 nominations. As you'd expect, Grant knows quite a few of the nominees, having worked with EE Rising Star nominees Naomi Ackie and Daryl McCormack, plus Bill Nighy, Cate Blanchett and most of the "Banshees" cast. But there will be big changes at the BAFTA Film Awards ceremony this year. After six years of walking up the red carpeted steps into the Royal Albert Hall, nominees will be attending an event held beside the River Thames on London's Southbank at the Royal Festival Hall. Also, for the first time, the last 30 minutes of the show will be broadcast live on BBC One, as BAFTA moves towards the idea of a fully live ceremony. "In an age where everything can be paused or fast forwarded or, you know, watched on at a later time, the thing of it being live gives it a kind of frisson and excitement and also the possibility that something can go fantastically well or really badly. And that's always a good thing," Grant says. British rapper Lil Simz will be performing at the ceremony and both the prince and princess of Wales will be in the audience, as he is president of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Grant, currently working with script writers on what he'll be saying on stage, claims he's more excited than nervous, adding he'll probably be "levitating" on the big day. "It is absolutely genuine," he says of his boundless enthusiasm, "and it's to the annoyance of some people." "Just surviving in show-business because it is, you know — for what it looks like from the outside — it is a profession that is has an enormous amount of rejection in built into it. So when people are recognized or succeed at what they're doing and do it so brilliantly — I'm a great champion of that,” Grant said.
US Urges UN Vote to Approve More Aid Access to Syria via Turkeyabout 1 month ago
The United States on Sunday called for the United Nations Security Council to "vote immediately" to authorize the delivery of U.N. aid to rebel-held northwest Syria through more border crossings from Turkey after last week's deadly earthquake. Since 2014, the U.N. has been able to deliver aid to millions of people in need in the northwest part of war-torn Syria through Turkey under a Security Council mandate. But it is currently restricted to using just one border crossing. "Right now, every hour matters," Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said in a statement to Reuters. "People in the affected areas are counting on us." "We cannot let them down - we must vote immediately on a resolution to heed the U.N.'s call for authorization of additional border crossings for the delivery of humanitarian assistance," she said. "It's time to move with urgency and purpose." U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths, who is in Turkey and is due to visit Syria, told Sky News on Saturday that he would ask the Security Council to authorize aid access through two more border crossings, arguing there is "a very clear humanitarian case." Griffiths "is working the phones very hard on that front on the diplomatic front, speaking to everyone to unlock more border crossings," spokesperson Jens Laerke said. Griffiths would brief the U.N. Security Council on Monday and hoped to use a "water-tight argument" about urgent needs to overcome historic resistance from Russia — a key ally of Damascus — to the cross-border aid operation. On Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had pushed for more access. On the 15-member Security Council, Brazil and Switzerland take the lead on negotiating any action related to the Syria humanitarian aid access issue. Diplomats said no draft resolution has yet been circulated to authorize more crossings. The death toll from the earthquake last week in Turkey and Syria passed 33,000 on Sunday. Of the 3,500 deaths so far reported in Syria, where the number has not been updated for two days, the bulk occurred in the northwest part of the country. A resolution would need nine votes in favor and no vetoes by Russia, China, the United States, Britain or France to pass. Syrian ally Russia has said that the existing council mandate for a single border crossing was sufficient. The Syrian government views aid deliveries across its border without its approval as a violation of sovereignty and says aid should be delivered across the front lines of the 12-year-old civil war. On Friday, it approved aid deliveries across front lines. But the U.N. said on Sunday that earthquake aid from government-held parts of Syria into the northwest part of the country has been held up by "approval issues" with one hardline group. The ambassadors of Brazil and Switzerland said on Friday they wanted Griffiths to brief the Security Council before any action was discussed. Diplomats said Griffiths is likely to speak to it on Monday. Griffiths on Sunday visited the one Turkish border crossing that the U.N. is currently authorized to use to deliver aid to northwest Syria, where about 4 million people needed help before the earthquake struck the region. "We have so far failed the people in northwest Syria," Griffiths said in a post on Twitter.