Augmented Reality Books

about 1 month ago

Crack the books with a unique reading experience that uses augmented reality to bring artwork to life. Producer | Camera | Editor: Genia Dulot

Child Entrepreneur

about 1 month ago

With the help of his mother, an 11-year old learns how to make candles using natural and organic ingredients, becoming the CEO of his own company, The Smell of Love Candles. Producer: Faiza Elmasry, Camera | Editor: June Soh

Visionary Thinkers

about 1 month ago

VOA Connect Episode 265 - The birth and execution of creative ideas.

Watch out for 'romance fraud' on dating apps

by Noelle Toumey Reetz-Georgia State, about 1 month ago

New research digs into "romance fraud" and how people using dating apps can protect themselves against scammers.

Nigerian Presidential Candidates Are in Final Push for Votes

about 1 month ago

Two of the three candidates considered front runners in Nigeria's Feb. 25 presidential rallies held their first major rallies this week., with security a key topic on the campaign trail. Former vice president Atiku Abubakar and former Anambra state governor Peter Obi held rallies. Among the 18 candidates running for president, former Lagos state governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu joins Abubakar and Obi as a front runner. In the capital of Abuja, thousands of supporters, mostly youths, charnted praise for Obi. He is riding a wave of momentum after two public opinion polls published by Nigerian newspapers this week showed him leading the candidates from Nigeria’s two biggest political parties — the All Progressives Congress (APC), and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Obi rose to prominence last May after resigning from the PDP to join the Labour Party as its presidential flag-bearer. He told his supporters he will tackle Nigeria's insecurity, build up the economy and improve local manufacturing to limit Nigeria's dependence on foreign products. "The country in the past 20 years, all it has produced is insecurity, poverty, out-of-school children, students strike. Everything that is wrong is what they've been producing,” he said. “We're offering you security of life and property, the criminals are not more formidable, except that there's no leadership. You'll be proud of your country because your country will move from consumption to production." Obi, Abubakar and Tinubu are traveling the country in a push for votes ahead of election day. In the campaign speeches, insecurity is a major topic. The country is battling jihadist fighters in the northeast, armed gangs in the northwest and central regions as well as separatists in the south. During a campaign rally Thursday in northern Kano state, PDP candidate Abubakar spoke to supporters. “Do you want return of peace in Kano?” he said. “Do you want the borders open? It is only PDP administration that can implement these policies. I want to appeal to you to vote PDP from top to bottom, we have done that before, we shall do it again." Atiku 76, lost a presidential bid to current President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019. Kelechi Onyenze, who attended the Kano state rallies for the PDP, praised Atiku's experienced. "Who else has the experience this man has gotten even in the business sector, private sector?” Onyenze said. “He's an entrepreneur, he's an employer of labor. Atiku has created wealth, he has discovered talent." This week, President Buhari led campaign events to rally support for APC candidate Tinubu. Tinubu has pledged to continue Buhari’s policies on tackling insecurity, fighting corruption, creating jobs and upgrading the standard of education — though critics from the other parties say Buhari failed on all those fronts. The recent violence has included attacks on officials from Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission, raising concerns about safety on election day. Authorities say they're taking steps to make sure voters and election workers are safe and that the voting will proceed without disruption.

US, China Compete for Africa's Rare Earth Minerals

about 1 month ago

South Africa hosted the world's biggest mining investment conference this week, with industry experts in attendance saying the U.S. and China are in a race for the critical minerals — such as cobalt and lithium — that will likely power the projected transition to clean energy. African countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo have some of the largest deposits of these resources, but China currently dominates the supply chain as well as their refinement and the U.S. wants to reduce its reliance on the Asian giant. In his remarks at the mining conference in Cape Town this week, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Jose Fernandez hinted at this saying, "I don't need to remind you of what happens when the supply chain breaks down or when we depend on a single supplier. We lived it during the COVID pandemic, and this is a vulnerability that we need to solve together." Fernandez — who did not mention China by name — noted that electric vehicles are expected to command half the global market by 2030 and that demand for lithium is expected to increase 42-fold by 2040. China is responsible for some 80 percent of the world's lithium refining. Tony Carroll, the director of Acorus Capital and an international adviser to the conference known as the Africa Mining Indaba, told VOA the session came at a critical time for the West. The Chinese made it a "priority to corner the market for critical minerals about two decades ago and supported that strategy with massive public diplomacy and infrastructure investments into Africa — most of which [came] via long-term debt. The West woke up to this strategy too late and have been scrambling ever since," he said. Rare earth minerals are essential for electric vehicle production and expanding the production of green technologies. However, their extraction can come at an environmental or social cost to African countries that have big deposits. Fernandez echoed remarks made by Pope Francis on his recent trip to Congo denouncing "economic colonialism" in Africa, which could be seen as a swipe at Beijing. He also assured African countries the United States would respect "environmental, social, and governance standards." "While late to the game, the U.S. has awakened with more ambition in mining and processing and building alliances with like-minded partners," said Carroll, who is also an adjunct professor in the African studies program at Johns Hopkins University. A first-time sponsor of the Mining Indaba this year was Chinese company Zijin, one of the largest mining groups in the world with interests in lithium, copper and other metals. Asked for comment by VOA on whether China is now in a race for rare earth metals with the U.S., as well as other questions about Chinese mining interests in Africa, the PR manager of South Africa Zijin Platinum said the CEO was unable to respond before the deadline for this article. African governments are now trying to get the best deals for their people. Namibia's Mines Minister Tom Alweendo told Reuters at the Cape Town conference that his country is insisting that all lithium mined in Namibia has to be processed in the country. Similarly, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi, who was one of the key speakers at the mining conference, has been demanding better terms from China for several years. China sources the majority of its cobalt from DRC, which produces some 70 percent of the world's total. Despite its vast mineral resources, Congo is one of the world's least developed countries and Tshisekedi said in January it hadn't benefited from a $6.2 billion minerals-for-infrastructure contract with China signed by his predecessor. "The Chinese, they've made a lot of money and made a lot of profit from this contract," Tshisekedi told Bloomberg at the World Economic Forum in Davos. "The Democratic Republic of Congo has derived no benefit from it. There's nothing tangible, no positive impact, I'd say, for our population." "Now our need is simply to re-balance things in a way that it becomes win-win," he added. There are signs Tshisekedi could be moving toward the West. The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden organized the Minerals Security Partnership last year as a way of diversifying supply chains. Partners include Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the European Union. At its first meeting last year, the DRC was one of the non-partner nations in attendance. Then at Biden's U.S.-Africa Summit in December, the DRC and Zambia inked a deal with the U.S. to jointly develop the supply chain for electric vehicle batteries. "Dependency on China for rare earths is viewed with alarm," said Jay Truesdale, CEO of the risk advisory firm Veracity Worldwide, and a speaker at the Indaba. "Given that Beijing has the means to severely restrict access to these minerals, in the event of a geopolitical crisis it could choose to use its market dominance to cripple non-Chinese manufacturers in such sectors as electronics, automotive manufacturing, aerospace, and renewable energy." Besides the rising tensions between China and the West in Africa, Russia's invasion of Ukraine will also force mining companies to make hard decisions, Truesdale said. "The war in Ukraine has placed greater scrutiny on Russian mining activities across the continent. Russia benefits from a lack of transparency and weak governance where its mining companies operate. African governments are now more closely observing how Moscow trades promises of greater security for deeper access to mineral resources and the state capture that can result," he told VOA.

Following Attacks On Their Democracies, Biden Hosts Brazil's Lula

about 1 month ago

U.S. President Joe Biden is welcoming Brazil's newly installed leftist president, Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva, to the White House Friday, seeking to strengthen relations with the South American nation following attacks on their respective democracies. Da Silva, commonly known as Lula, took office after narrowly defeating then President Jair Bolsonaro, in an October run-off, election. A week after Lula's inauguration, on January 8, 2023, thousands of Bolsonaro's supporters stormed the capital and trashed main government buildings, demanding that the election results be overturned. The attack echoed the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 by supporters of former president Donald Trump who would not accept that Biden won the November 2020 election. Biden spoke with Lula following the Brasilia attack, condemning the action, pledging U.S. assistance, and invited him to the White House for "in-depth consultations."  The pair will discuss their "categorical rejection of extremism and violence in politics" and how the two countries can continue to work together to promote inclusion and democratic values in the region and around the world, particularly in the lead-up to a March 2023 Summit for Democracy, a senior Biden administration official said in a statement.  Confronting insurrection attempts is a converging point for the presidents, who have been through the same experience. "Of course, this creates a good narrative for them to stay together regarding democracy and the values of democracy and the strength of institutions," said Thiago de Aragão, director of strategy at consulting firm Arko Advice, and non-resident senior associate of the Americas Program at the Center for International Studies. "We can certainly expect that they will do a joint message in relation to the strength of democracy, condemning what happened in Brasilia and what happened in Washington as a symbol of how democracy should be preserved, given the fact that these are the two largest democracies of the hemisphere," he told VOA. Renewing ties U.S. relations with Brazil had cooled under Bolsonaro and Washington is looking to renew ties to address common challenges, including combating climate change and managing irregular migration. It's also seeking to bolster the relationship with the biggest economy in Latin America that has a huge commercial dependency on Beijing. Brasilia is part of the informal group of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), an economic grouping that consists of more than a quarter of the world's gross domestic product (GDP) and about 40% of the world's population.  It will be difficult for Biden to expect that Lula can be an ally against Chinese influence in Latin America, said de Aragão. "I don't see Lula being an active player pro-China but Lula's neutrality and Brazil's neutrality in their approach toward China is a win for China and a defeat for the U.S.," he added. Brazil has also taken a neutral stance on the war in Ukraine. Russia supplies a quarter of Brazil's fertilizers, and Western sanctions meant to punish Moscow for its invasion has threatened the supply. The historic relationship of Brazil's Workers Party with the Soviet Communist Party before the end of the Soviet Union also inhibits Brazilian leaders from taking a stronger position to support Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Biden and Lula are expected to announce that Washington is considering contributing toward a multilateral fund aimed at fighting Amazon deforestation. Following Bolsonaro's disengagement on the fight against climate change, an endorsement from Biden will strengthen Lula's effort in returning Brazil to its environmental diplomacy.  The pair is not expected to comment publicly on the uncomfortable fact that Bolsonaro remains in the United States following his electoral loss, de Aragão said. He is "just this guy in Florida, trying to make a noise with the audience that he has," with little impact on the Biden-Lula meeting.

Soft material could offer 'wear it and forget it' health monitoring

by Eric Stann-Missouri, about 1 month ago

A soft, breathable, stretchable material that is nearly undetectable on a person's skin could one day allow for long-term health monitoring.

EU Summit: Talk but No Big Decisions on Ukraine, Migration

about 1 month ago

After a European Union summit ending February 10 that offered strong support for Ukraine — and calls for stronger measures against illegal migration — the bloc is now challenged to act on its rhetoric. But on both Ukraine and migration, European member states are not marching in complete lockstep. EU membership, fighter jets and fences counted among the top three buzzwords of a summit, featuring the standing-ovation presence of Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and talks about curbing a sharp influx of so-called "irregular migrants" from places like Africa. Zelenskyy got a rousing welcome from European members of parliament and leaders, as he reiterated calls for more weapons and for fast-tracking his country's EU membership application. Ukraine's leader also called for more EU sanctions against Russia — which European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said will shortly become reality. "First, we will impose sanctions on a number of political and military leaders," she said. "But also, dear Volodymyr, we listened very carefully to your messages when we visited you last week in Kyiv – we will target [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's propagandists, because their lies are poisoning the public space in Russia and abroad." Despite the show of unity, there does not appear more movement on speeding up Ukraine's accession into the bloc. And while Zelenskyy said some EU countries appeared receptive to sending fighter jets, it is unclear how much support that proposal has within the bloc, with many nations fearing an escalation in the Ukraine conflict.  Speaking to reporters, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin appeared open to the idea.  When asked if she would rule out fighter jets, Marin responded, "I don't want to rule out anything in this stage."  Europe's traditional heavyweights — France and Germany — were less receptive. French President Emmanuel Macron said he does not rule out sending fighter jets to Ukraine, but that it does not correspond to today's needs. In terms of overall weapons deliveries, timing is critical, said Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior analyst at the German Marshall Fund policy institute. "It is clear, or appears to be clear, that Russian government is determined to push an offensive around the one-year anniversary of the invasion — and hopefully from their point of view before lots of the new western heavy weaponry arrives. And of course, Ukraine has previously said it is their intention to launch their own counter-offensive," Kirkegaard said. EU divisions were also apparent on another hot-button issue: migration. European border agency Frontex says last year's number of so-called irregular migrant crossings into the bloc — 330,000 — was the highest since its 2016 migrant crisis. Many more were asylum-seekers, although EU officials suggest many of those do not merit refugee status. While the bloc is moving toward tougher policies to curb migration, countries are divided over methods to do it, and whether to use EU funds to build fences — a concept that was largely dismissed not so long ago.  

Analysts Skeptical About South Africa’s 'State of Disaster'

about 1 month ago

In his state of the union speech late Thursday, South Africa's president, declared a state of disaster to deal with the country's electricity crisis. The emergency powers were key to helping South Africa cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. But analysts are skeptical the added powers will hasten an increase in electricity, and they worry it could feed corruption. The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, plans to challenge the state of disaster in court, saying it wants to prevent the kind of looting that took place during the COVID-19 emergency, as President Cyril Ramaphosa’s action will empower the ruling African National Congress party to side-step normal procurement processes. Professor Lisa Thompson, a political economist at the University of the Western Cape, says it is a concern expressed by many, though she notes it is heartening the president finally seemed to acknowledge the urgency of resolving the energy crisis. Power outages have been implemented on and off since about 2008. “It’s not just a statement of intent. It’s about dealing with an actual real time crisis, which analysts and citizens feel that the president has handled badly," Thompson said. "He has sat on his hands and not resolved this issue.” She says a recent field trip to the less developed province of Limpopo brought home the impact of the electricity crisis. “I was absolutely horrified at how little power areas like Louis Trichardt and Messina had," Thompson said. "We had more than 12 hours of no electricity every day, a lot of it actually in the day. How businesses up there are functioning, I really do not know.” Energy analyst Chris Yelland says he has mixed feelings about the State of Disaster being declared. “On the one hand, I do believe that special powers would and could, if applied correctly, make a difference in expediting some of the bureaucratic process involved to deal with the energy crisis," Yelland said. "However, I do believe that up front, before declaring a State of Disaster, one needs to know precisely those actions that are going to be taken in terms of this State of Disaster. Not only actions themselves but the time frames for these actions and the cost of these actions. A State of Disaster should be limited in this way up-front and not used as an open check book.” Yelland says past experiences of States of Disaster have not been positive and have opened the door to significant maladministration, unauthorized expenditures and corruption. “And the kind of money one is talking about in resolving the electricity crisis is several orders of magnitude higher than that involved in the COVID crisis," Yelland said. " Head of the business group Business Unity South Africa, Bonang Mohale, says that while members are energized by the president demonstrating a heightened sense of urgency, there also is consternation. For example, he says they don’t take a great deal of comfort in the president saying that the auditor general will be told to make sure the money is spent properly. “External audit by definition is backwards looking. It’s like riding a car forward with your eyes on the rearview mirror," Mohale said. "We need to put systems in place to prevent corruption before it happens.” President Ramaphosa also announced there would be a new minister of electricity based in his office soon. The person hasn’t been named yet.  

Kyrgyz Government Seeking to Shut Down Radio Station

about 1 month ago

 A court in Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek on Thursday rescheduled for March 15 the hearing of a request by the country's Culture Ministry to close down Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's local branch, called Radio Azattyk. Radio Azattyk's website was blocked in Kyrgyzstan in October 2022 and its bank accounts frozen under national money laundering laws, over a video report about clashes on the Kyrgyz-Tajik border in the Batken region. According to the Culture Ministry, the coverage violates Kyrgyz media law, which bans "propaganda of war, violence and cruelty, national, religious exclusion and intolerance to other peoples and nations." The website ban was declared "indefinite" in December 2022. The Reporters Without Borders group condemned the Culture Ministry's move to seek Radio Azattyk's closure, saying the case poses "a major new obstacle to press freedom" which is "under growing pressure" in Kyrgyzstan. Fighting on the disputed border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan killed at least 94 people and wounded over 100 in September 2022, the deadliest clashes in years.  

Celebs Tout Ice Baths, But Science on Benefits Is Lukewarm

about 1 month ago

The coolest thing on social media these days may be celebrities and regular folks plunging into frigid water or taking ice baths. The touted benefits include improved mood, more energy, weight loss and reduced inflammation, but the science supporting some of those claims is lukewarm. Kim Kardashian posted her foray on Instagram. Harry Styles has tweeted about his dips. Kristen Bell says her plunges are "brutal" but mentally uplifting. And Lizzo claims ice plunges reduce inflammation and make her body feel better. Here's what medical evidence, experts and fans say about the practice, which dates back centuries. The mind You might call Dan O'Conor an amateur authority on cold water immersion. Since June 2020, the 55-year-old Chicago man has plunged into Lake Michigan almost daily, including on frigid winter mornings when he has to shovel through the ice. "The endorphin rush … is an incredible way to wake up and just kind of shock the body and get the engine going," O'Conor said on a recent morning when the air temperature was a frosty 23 degrees (minus-5 Celsius). Endorphins are "feel good" hormones released in response to pain, stress, exercise and other activities. With the lake temperature 34 degrees (1 Celsius), the bare-chested O'Conor did a running jump from the snow-covered shore to launch a forward flip into the icy gray water. His first plunge came early in the pandemic, when he went on a bourbon bender and his annoyed wife told him to "go jump in the lake." The water felt good that June day. The world was in a coronavirus funk, O'Conor says, and that made him want to continue. As the water grew colder with the seasons, the psychological effect was even greater, he said. "My mental health is a lot stronger, a lot brighter. I found some Zen down here coming down and jumping into the lake and shocking that body," O'Conor said. Dr. Will Cronenwett, chief of psychiatry at Northwestern University's Feinberg medical school, tried cold-water immersion once, years ago while visiting Scandinavian friends on a Baltic island. After a sauna, he jumped into the ice-cold water for a few minutes and had what he called an intense and invigorating experience. "It felt like I was being stabbed with hundreds of millions of really small electrical needles," he said. "I felt like I was strong and powerful and could do anything." But Cronenwett says studying cold water immersion with a gold-standard randomized controlled trial is challenging because devising a placebo for cold plunges could be difficult. There are a few theories on how it affects the psyche. Cronenwett says cold water immersion stimulates the part of the nervous system that controls the resting or relaxation state. That may enhance feelings of well-being. It also stimulates the part of the nervous system that regulates fight-or-flight stress response. Doing it on a regular basis may dampen that response, which could in turn help people feel better able to handle other stresses in their lives, although that is not proven, he said. "You have to conquer your own trepidation. You have to muster the courage to do it," he said. "And when you finally do it, you feel like you've accomplished something meaningful. You've achieved a goal." Czech researchers found that cold water plunging can increase blood concentrations of dopamine — another so-called happy hormone made in the brain — by 250%. High amounts have been linked with paranoia and aggression, noted physiologist James Mercer, a professor emeritus at the Arctic University of Norway who co-authored a recent scientific review of cold water immersion studies. The heart Cold water immersion raises blood pressure and increases stress on the heart. Studies have shown this is safe for healthy people and the effects are only temporary. But it can be dangerous for people with heart trouble, sometimes leading to life-threatening irregular heartbeats, Cronenwett said. People with heart conditions or a family history of early heart disease should consult a physician before plunging, he said. Metabolism Repeated cold-water immersions during winter months have been shown to improve how the body responds to insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar levels, Mercer noted. This might help reduce risks for diabetes or keep the disease under better control in people already affected, although more studies are needed to prove that. Cold water immersion also activates brown fat — tissue that helps keep the body warm and helps it control blood sugar and insulin levels. It also helps the body burn calories, which has prompted research into whether cold water immersion is an effective way to lose weight. The evidence so far is inconclusive. Immune system Anecdotal research suggests that people who routinely swim in chilly water get fewer colds, and there's evidence that it can increase levels of certain white blood cells and other infection-fighting substances. Whether an occasional dunk in ice water can produce the same effect is unclear. Among the biggest unanswered questions: How cold does water have to be to achieve any health benefits? And will a quick dunk have the same effect as a long swim? "There is no answer to 'the colder the better,'" Mercer said. "Also, it depends on the type of response you are looking at. For example, some occur very quickly, like changes in blood pressure. ... Others, such as the formation of brown fat, take much longer." O'Conor plunges year-round, but he says winter dunks are the best for "mental clarity," even if they sometimes last only 30 seconds. On those icy mornings, he is "blocking everything else out and knowing that I got to get in the water, and then more importantly, get out of the water."

Lack of diversity in clinical trials is leaving women and patients of color behind and harming the future of medicine - Podcast

about 1 month ago

Iran Releases Journalist Arrested During Protests, Media Report

about 1 month ago

Iran released a journalist Friday arrested during the monthslong protests triggered by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, local media reported. Iranian authorities have detained thousands since nationwide protests broke out following the September 16 death of Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd who had been arrested for allegedly breaching the country's dress rules for women. "Hossein Yazdi, a political activist and journalist, was released from Dastgerd Prison" in the central city of Isfahan, reformist daily Shargh reported. Arrested on December 5, Yazdi had been sentenced to one year in prison and a two-year travel ban, the newspaper had previously reported, without elaborating on the charges against him. It had said Yazdi was the "manager of Mobin 24 website and Iran Times news channel." On Thursday, media based outside Iran said seven women activists and journalists had been released from Tehran's Evin prison. They included campaigner Saba Kordafshari, held since 2019 after she campaigned against the obligatory hijab for women, and prominent photographer Alieh Motalebzadeh whose latest stint in jail began in April last year, the reports said. It was unclear if the recent releases were linked to an announcement this month from the office of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that he had agreed to pardon many convicts, including some detained over the protests. Authorities say hundreds of people, including dozens of security personnel, have been killed during the demonstrations which they describe as "riots." 

Team gets closer to pinpointing insomnia's genetics

by Texas A&M University, about 1 month ago

Researchers have found a gene called Pig-Q that's associated with sleep regulation in humans, flies, and zebrafish.

'Whodunit' Mystery Arises Over Trove of Prehistoric Kenyan Stone Tools

about 1 month ago

Scientists have a mystery on their hands after the discovery of 330 stone tools about 2.9 million years old at a site in Kenya, along Lake Victoria's shores, that were used to butcher animals, including hippos, and pound plant material for food. Which of our prehistoric relatives that were walking the African landscape at the time made them? The chief suspect, researchers said on Thursday in describing the findings, may be a surprise. The Nyayanga site artifacts represent the oldest-known examples of a type of stone technology, called the Oldowan toolkit, that was revolutionary, enabling our forerunners to process diverse foods and expand their menu. Three tool types were found: hammerstones and stone cores to pound plants, bone and meat, and sharp-edged flakes to cut meat. To put the age of these tools into perspective, our species Homo sapiens did not appear until roughly 300,000 years ago. Scientists had long believed Oldowan tools were the purview of species belonging to the genus Homo, a grouping that includes our species and our closest relatives. But no Homo fossils were found at Nyayanga. Instead, two teeth - stout molars - of a genus called Paranthropus were discovered there, an indication this prehistoric cousin of ours may have been the maker. "The association of these Nyayanga tools with Paranthropus may reopen the case as to who made the oldest Oldowan tools. Perhaps not only Homo, but other kinds of hominins were processing food with Oldowan technology," said anthropologist Thomas Plummer of Queens College in New York City, lead author of the research published in the journal Science. The term hominin refers to various species considered human or closely related. "When our team determined the age of the Nyayanga evidence, the perpetrator of the tools became a 'whodunit' in my mind," said paleoanthropologist and study co-author Rick Potts, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History's Human Origins Program. "There are several possibilities. And except for finding fossilized hand bones wrapped around a stone tool, the originator of the early Oldowan tools may be an unknown for a long time." The molars represent the oldest-known fossils of Paranthropus, an upright-walker that combined ape-like and human-like traits, possessing adaptations for heavy chewing, including a skull topped with a bony ridge to which strong jaw muscles were attached, like in gorillas. Other hominins existing at the time included the genus Australopithecus, known for the famous even-older fossil "Lucy." "While some species of nonhuman primates produce technologies that assist in foraging, humans are uniquely dependent on technology for survival," Plummer said. All later developments in prehistoric technologies were based on Oldowan tools, making their advent a milestone in human evolution, Potts said. Rudimentary stone tools 3.3 million years old from another Kenyan site may have been an Oldowan forerunner or a technological dead-end. The Nyayanga site today is a gully on Homa Mountain's western flank along Lake Victoria in southwestern Kenya. When the tools were made, it was woodland and grassland along a stream, teeming with animals. Until now, the oldest-known Oldowan examples dated to around 2.6 million years ago, in Ethiopia. The species Homo erectus later toted Oldowan technology as far as Georgia and China. Cut marks on hippopotamus rib and shin bones at Nyayanga were the oldest-known examples of butchering a very large animal - called megafauna. The researchers think the hippos were scavenged, not hunted. The tools also were used for cracking open antelope bones to obtain marrow and pounding hard and soft plant material. Fire was not harnessed until much later, meaning food was eaten raw. The researchers suspect the tools were used to pound meat to make it like "hippo tartare." "Megafauna provide a super abundance of food," Plummer said. "A hippopotamus is a big leather sack full of good things to eat."

Honoring human rights defenders

by ShareAmerica, about 1 month ago

Labor and women's rights activists, a journalist and a surgeon are among recipients of the 2023 Human Rights Defender Awards.

5 ways kids' Valentine's Day cards embrace gender stereotypes

by Jade McClain-NYU, about 1 month ago

Over 30 years ago, research showed how children's valentines perpetuate binary gender stereotypes. Decades later, not much has changed.

Burt Bacharach mastered the art of the perfect pop song – and that ain't easy

about 1 month ago

More teens vape cannabis in medical-only states

by Sara Zaske-Washington State, about 1 month ago

"More than a quarter of our youth in medical states were vaping cannabis. That's a lot," says Christian Maynard.

A boon for sports fandom or a looming mental health crisis? 5 essential reads on the effects of legal sports betting

about 1 month ago

Bombing in Southwestern Pakistan Kills 2 Army Officers

about 1 month ago

The bombing of a Pakistan military vehicle in a turbulent southwestern region has killed at least two army officers and injured several others. The roadside bombing took place Friday in Kohlu, a remote district in Baluchistan province.  A military statement said security forces were conducting an operation in the area to “deny terrorists any liberty of action” when an improvised explosive device hit a vehicle. The slain officers included an army major and a captain. Local officials said injured troops were transported to a local hospital, where some were in “critical condition." No group immediately claimed responsibly for the deadly attack in a Pakistani province where ethnic Baluch insurgents regularly plot ambushes and roadside bombings against security forces.  Kohlu is a known stronghold of separatist Baluch leader Hyrbyair Marri, who, long ago, fled Pakistan and reportedly resides in London.  Several Baluch insurgent groups are active in the province and often claim credit for plotting ambushes, as well as bomb attacks on security forces. Pakistan’s Baluchistan and northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces have lately experienced a surge in militant attacks. Both regions line the country’s long border with Afghanistan.  The outlawed Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for much of the violence in recent months. Baluchistan, the largest Pakistani province, also borders Iran.

Rights Groups Warn of More Torture, Executions in Myanmar as Martial Law Spreads

about 1 month ago

Rights groups are warning of a likely rise in arbitrary arrests, torture and executions by Myanmar’s military regime after the junta’s move last week to place swaths of the country that are home to millions of people under martial law. The junta declared martial law in 37 of Myanmar’s 330 townships on February 2, a day after marking the two-year anniversary of the military’s overthrow of a democratically elected government, by extending emergency rule across the country for six more months.  It adds to the 12 townships the junta placed under martial law in the months that followed the February 2021 coup, mostly in Yangon and Mandalay, Myanmar’s two largest cities. Martial law puts all police, judicial and administrative activity in the townships in the hands of regional military commanders, who can launch opaque military tribunals into 23 offenses, from spreading “false news” to high treason. According to the announcement in state media, sentences can include indefinite prison terms and death, with no appeals except in cases of capital punishment. The announcement said the tougher rules were needed “to exercise more effective undertakings for ensuring security, the rule of law and local peace and tranquillity.” To some, though, the move is more proof that the junta, which calls itself the State Administration Council, or SAC, has little to no control over much of Myanmar. The 37 townships, spread across the country, have seen some of the fiercest fighting in recent months between the military and a patchwork of armed resistance groups. “This is a humiliating acknowledgement of the reality on the ground. [The] SAC cannot govern these areas in any meaningful manner. Its state apparatus has collapsed aside from security forces in the main towns,” said Matthew Arnold, an independent Myanmar analyst. License to kill Rights groups accuse the military of committing mass atrocities across the country in a scorched earth campaign against the resistance that has killed nearly 3,000 civilians by their best estimates.  Manny Maung, the Myanmar research lead for Human Rights Watch, said martial law portends even more abuses by junta forces in the targeted townships. “It gives them a bit more license to do what they want,” she said. “They already do what they want with very, very little accountability. But in these particular areas, I’d say that this is a notice for us that they’re willing to take steps even further.” Of the nearly 100 people sentenced to death by Myanmar’s courts since the coup, Manny Maung said all were arrested in townships placed under martial law after the coup, including four men executed in July. With another 37 townships added to the list, she said she expects more death sentences and executions to come. “There is definitely a precedent that’s been set, and they’ve shown that they will go ahead with it if they think that they will get maximum leverage out of ... killing people in their politically motivated fashion,” she said. John Quinley, director of Fortify Rights, a group that documents rights violations in Myanmar, said his research team also found an especially high number of indefinite detentions of protesters in the Yangon and Mandalay townships, which were placed under martial law in the wake of the coup. Many, he added, were beaten during their arrests and some were tortured in custody. He said martial law and other enhanced security orders have at times foreshadowed large and deadly military operations. In 2012, the military government running Myanmar imposed a state of emergency on Rakhine state amid race riots that displaced more than 100,000 minority Rohingya and left dozens dead. An independent fact-finding mission sponsored by the United Nations concluded that security forces likely participated in the violence and were “at least complicit.” “Historically, martial law in Myanmar has been used pre- and post- pretty widespread atrocity crimes,” said Quinley. “So, I think ... we’re going to see more human rights violations after this has been put in place for quite some time.” Diminishing returns Of the 37 townships placed under martial law last week, roughly half are in the northwest states of Chin and Sagaing, both strongholds of the armed resistance. The Chin Human Rights Organization smuggles humanitarian aid across the border from India to communities in both Chin and Sagaing cut off from the rest of Myanmar by military blockades. The group’s director, Salai Za Uk Ling, says the military has arrested and killed aid workers and volunteers caught breaking the blockade.  The new powers local commanders now have under martial law, he told VOA, will make their work even riskier. A resident of Hakha, the capital of Chin state, who spoke with VOA on condition of anonymity for his family’s safety, said local commanders imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the town over the weekend, just days after gaining their martial law powers. He said gunshots and rocket fire ring out almost daily from just outside of town as the military battles armed resistance groups that hold most of the countryside. In town, he added, junta officers are struggling to run basic government services as most public sector employees refuse to work for the regime. “There is no law at all, that’s why we are very much worried about [martial law],” the husband and father or two said. “It is like giving [themselves] more power to commit crimes including arbitrary arrest, killing, or giving death penalty sentence.” Arnold said he expects the SAC to place even more townships under martial law in the coming months in a desperate bid to cling to power. He doubts it will succeed at winning back what it has lost to the resistance, especially in rural areas, where its grip is already weak. In many of the townships bearing the brunt of the military’s force, Arnold added, the resistance has only grown. “Basically, there are now diminishing returns for the military to undertake atrocity attacks because the resistance is now so widespread and saturated across the vast swath of the country,” he said. “The people want to be rid of this military once and for all. If anything, atrocities encourage more resistance at this point.”

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