In Paris, Green Forum Traces More Durable Footprint for the Planet

People suffering from eco-anxiety — the fear of environmental catastrophe — may get a boost from a green forum in Paris this week. Gathering hundreds of eco-entrepreneurs, companies and activists, ChangeNOW aims to trace a sustainable blueprint for the future.

From food to fashion, technology to transport, a raft of green solutions for our resource-sucking society is parked through Saturday inside a massive events venue — made of sustainable materials — in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

“It’s 35 days to reach Madagascar from Marseille. Going through the Suez Canal. And we are using the wind. It helps us to save up to 60 percent energy,” says Louise Chopinet who heads a Brittany-based shipping startup called Windcoop. Its wind-powered sailing vessels carry about 14,000 tons of cargo per trip. For now, that means spices from Madagascar farmers. With the shipping industry challenged to become carbon neutral by 2050, sailing is taking off.

“It’s really a growing interest now. Everyone is getting into sails and wind,” she noted.

Berlin-based Noa Climate also works in Africa. It sells systems that recycle organic waste into energy in places far from power grids. Noa’s Janine Gadke says the company works with financial partners so poor communities can buy products on credit.

“In Kenya, we have a project in an orphanage, they have a system on location … they can get electricity and everything. And they feed the system with kitchen waste,” Gadke expressed.

ChangeNOW is considered one of the biggest global green events of the year. This 5th edition includes CEOs and celebrity activists, like British primatologist Jane Goodall.

Being Paris, representatives of a greening fashion industry are also here, like luxury group LVMH. Also companies pitching natural textiles like silk, cotton, hemp and mohair.

“We can feel a boom in terms of demand,” says Eva Pujol who works for British textile nonprofit The Sustainable Angle; adding that “more and more people are coming and we have brands asking more and more about sustainable material … I think the pressure mostly comes from customers to buy better.”

The forum offers a bicycle parking lot, recyclable waste containers, and a stand cooking up veggie burgers. Those who couldn’t find climate-friendly transport to get here can make a contribution to offset their carbon emissions.

North Korea Hails ‘Good Results’ On COVID as Fever Cases Pass 2 Million

North Korea said Friday it was achieving “good results” in its fight against its first confirmed COVID-19 outbreak, as the number of people with fever symptoms rose past 2 million.

A wave of COVID infections, which North Korea first confirmed last week, has fanned worry about a lack of medical resources and vaccines in the isolated country heavily sanctioned for its nuclear weapons program.

North Korea has not responded to offers from its old enemies, South Korea and the United States, to send help, a South Korean official said.

South Korea’s new president, Yoon Suk Yeol, and U.S. President Joe Biden, who arrived in South Korea on a visit Friday, are expected to discuss help.

North Korea reported 263,370 more people with fever symptoms, and two more deaths, taking its total fever caseload since late April to 2.24 million as of Thursday evening, including 65 deaths, according to its KCNA state news agency.

North Korea lacks COVID testing capacity and it has not specified how many of those people with fever have been confirmed to have contracted COVID.

Despite the caseload, the North has said farming continues and factories are working. It is also planning a state funeral for a retired general.

“Even under the maximum emergency epidemic prevention situation, normal production is kept at key industrial sectors and large-scale construction projects are propelled without let-up,” KCNA reported.

“Good results are reported steadily in the ongoing anti-epidemic war,” it said.

The U.N. human rights agency has warned of the “devastating” consequences of COVID for North Korea’s 25 million people, while World Health Organization officials worry an unchecked spread could lead to the emergence of deadlier new variants.

But North Korea said on Wednesday its outbreak was taking a “favorable turn.”

‘Consultations’

Officials in South Korea say it is hard to draw conclusions, partly because it is not clear how North Korea is calculating the number of fever and COVID patients.

Cases of fever reported by the government have declined in the capital, Pyongyang, but risen in rural provinces.

But Martyn Williams, a researcher at the U.S.-based 38 North monitoring group, said North Korea’s figures were unlikely to give an accurate account of what is going on, either through error or deliberate manipulation.

“I doubt they represent the exact picture,” he said on Twitter.

South Korea and the United States have both offered to help North Korea fight the virus, including sending aid, but have not had a response, South Korea’s deputy national security adviser said.

But the allies, who North Korea denounces as its main enemies as it justifies its development of nuclear weapons and missiles, would likely be North Korea’s last resort in seeking help, said South Korean legislators who were briefed by its main security agency on Thursday.

South Korea’s foreign minister, Park Jin, told parliament Yoon and Biden would discuss help for North Korea when they meet Saturday.

“South Korea and the United States are continuing consultations on providing humanitarian assistance, especially over COVID-19, to the North,” Park said.

1955 Mercedes Sells For Record $143 Million: Sotheby’s

A 1955 Mercedes-Benz, one of only two such versions in existence, was auctioned off earlier this month for a whopping $143 million, making it the world’s most expensive car ever sold, RM Sotheby’s announced Thursday.

The 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe was sold to a private collector for almost triple the previous record, which was set in 2018 by a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO that fetched over $48 million.

The invitation-only auction took place on May 5 at the MercedesBenz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, the auction house said.

The car is one of just two prototypes built by the Mercedes-Benz racing department and is named after its creator and chief engineer, Rudolf Uhlenhaut, according to RM Sotheby’s.

“The private buyer has agreed that the 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe will remain accessible for public display on special occasions, while the second original 300 SLR Coupe remains in company ownership and will continue to be displayed at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart,” the auction company added.

RM Sotheby’s said the proceeds from the auction will be used to establish a worldwide Mercedes-Benz Fund that will fund environmental science and decarbonization research. 

Boeing Crew Capsule Launches to Space Station in 2nd Test 

Boeing’s crew capsule rocketed into orbit Thursday on a repeat test flight without astronauts, after years of being grounded by flaws that could have doomed the spacecraft.

Only a test dummy was aboard. If the capsule reaches the International Space Station on Friday and everything else goes well, two or three NASA test pilots could strap in by the end of this year or early next for the company’s first crew flight.

It’s Boeing’s third shot at the high-stakes flight demo.

At least this time, Starliner made it to the proper orbit, quickly giving chase to the space station. But the all-important rendezvous and docking loomed.

Starliner’s first test flight in 2019 was stricken by software errors so severe that the capsule ended up in the wrong orbit and had to skip the space station. The spacecraft came close to being destroyed as ground controllers hastily cut short the mission.

After dozens of safety fixes, Boeing returned a different capsule to the launch pad last summer. Corroded valves halted the countdown, resulting in another round of repairs.

The drawn-out test flight program has cost Boeing about $600 million.

“We’re not going to fly (crews) unless we feel like we’ve bought down the risk,” NASA space operations chief Kathy Lueders stressed on the eve of liftoff.

Boeing is seeking redemption as it attempts to catch up with SpaceX, NASA’s other contracted taxi service. Elon Musk’s company has been flying astronauts to and from the space station for two years and delivering cargo for a full decade.

Eager to reduce its high-priced dependency on Russia for crew transport, NASA hired Boeing and SpaceX to launch astronauts to the space station after the shuttle program ended in 2011. That’s why it’s so important for Boeing’s Starliner to succeed, said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

“We always, in this case, want to have a backup,” Nelson told The Associated Press hours before liftoff.

Different in looks but similar in function to SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, Boeing’s fully automated capsule will attempt to dock at the space station on its own. Station astronauts will be ready to steer the capsule by remote control, if necessary.

Starliner will spend close to a week at the space station before aiming for a touchdown in the New Mexico desert.

NASA has yet to finalize which astronauts will be on the first Starliner crew. The program is so far behind that the original three have stepped aside. The leading candidates gathered at Cape Canaveral for the evening launch of Starliner atop United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket.

“We’re thrilled for this because the next one is us,” said astronaut Butch Wilmore.

Besides Rosie the Rocketeer — a space-age version of World War II’s Rosie the Riveter — the capsule is carrying groceries and spacewalking gear for the seven station residents. U.S. spacewalks have been on hold since an astronaut’s helmet took on water in March. NASA is sending up extra absorbent pads for use in helmets, in case an emergency spacewalk is required as the investigation continues.

Boeing also is flying mementos from historically black colleges and universities and tree seeds similar to those Apollo astronauts took to the moon that became so-called moon trees here on Earth.

 

Київ вимагає від німецького телеканалу виправити мапу з «російським» Кримом

Як заявили в Представництві президента АРК, мапа може трактуватися як «визнання на міжнародному рівні незаконної окупації та спроби анексії» Криму

Pentagon Declassifies Evidence of UFOs

The U.S. Defense Department declassifies evidence of unidentified flying objects, or UFOs. One Mars rover ramps up while another winds down, and a look behind the phenomenon of a “blood moon.” VOA’s Arash Arabasadi brings us The Week in Space.

‘Chariots of Fire’ Composer Vangelis Dies at 79 

Vangelis, the Greek electronic composer who wrote the unforgettable Academy Award-winning score for the film “Chariots of Fire” and music for dozens of other movies, documentaries and TV series, has died at 79. 

Greek media reported that Vangelis — born Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou — died in a French hospital late Tuesday. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and other government officials expressed their condolences Thursday.

“Vangelis Papathanassiou is no longer among us,” Mitsotakis tweeted. 

The opening credits of “Chariots of Fire” roll as a bunch of young runners progress in slow motion across a glum beach in Scotland, as a lazy, beat-backed tune rises to a magisterial declamation. It’s one of the most instantly recognizable musical themes in cinema — and its standing in popular culture has only been confirmed by the host of spoofs it has sired. 

The 1981 British film made Vangelis, but his initial encounter with success came with his first Greek pop band in the 1960s. 

He evolved into a one-man quasi-classical orchestra, using a vast array of electronic equipment to conjure up his enormously popular undulating waves of sound. A private, humorous man — burly, with with shoulder-length hair and a trim beard — he quoted ancient Greek philosophy and saw the artist as a conduit for a basic universal force. He was fascinated by space exploration and wrote music for celestial bodies, but said he never sought stardom himself. 

Still, a micro-planet spinning somewhere between Mars and Jupiter — 6354 Vangelis — will forever bear his name. 

Born on March 29, 1943, near the city of Volos in central Greece, Vangelis started playing the piano at age 4, although he got no formal training and claimed he never learned to read notes. 

“Orchestration, composition — they teach these things in music schools, but there are some things you can never teach,” he said in a 1982 interview. “You can’t teach creation.” 

At 20, Vangelis and three friends formed the Forminx band in Athens, which did very well in Greece. After it disbanded, he wrote scores for several Greek films and later became a founding member — together with another later-to-be internationally famous Greek musician, Demis Roussos — of Aphrodite’s Child. Based in Paris, the progressive rock group produced several European hits, and their final record “666,” released in 1972, is still highly acclaimed. 

Aphrodite’s Child also broke up, and Vangelis pursued solo projects. In 1974, he moved to London, built his own studio and cooperated with Yes frontman Jon Anderson, with whom he recorded as Jon and Vangelis and had several major hits. 

Signature piece

But his huge breakthrough came with the score for “Chariots of Fire” that told the true story of two British runners competing in the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. Vangelis’ score won one of the four Academy Awards the film won, including best picture. The signature piece is one of the hardest-to-forget movie tunes worldwide — and has also served as the musical background to endless slow-motion parodies. 

Vangelis later wrote music scores for Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” (1982) and “1492: Conquest of Paradise” (1992), as well as for “Missing” (1982) and “Antarctica” (1983), among others. 

He refused many other offers for film scores, saying in an interview: “Half of the films I see don’t need music. It sounds like something stuffed in.” 

Vangelis was wary of how record companies handled commercial success. With success, he said, “you find yourself stuck and obliged to repeat yourself and your previous success.” 

His interest in science — including the physics of music and sound — and space exploration led to compositions linked with major NASA and European Space Agency projects. When British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking died in 2018, Vangelis composed a musical tribute for his interment that the ESA broadcast into space. 

Vangelis brought forth his symphonic swells playing alone on a bank of synthesizers, while flipping switches as his feet darted from one volume pedal to another. 

“I work like an athlete,” he once said. 

He avoided the lifestyle excesses associated with many in the music industry, saying that he never took drugs — “which was very uncomfortable, at times.” 

Vangelis said he didn’t ever experiment with his music and usually did everything on the first take. 

“When I compose, I perform the music at the same time, so everything is live, nothing is pre-programmed,” he said. 

The composer lived in London, Paris and Athens, where he bought a house at the foot of the Acropolis that he never dolled up, even when his street became one of the most desirable pedestrian walks in town. The neoclassical building was nearly demolished in 2007 when government officials decided that it spoiled the view of the ancient citadel from a new museum built next door, but eventually reconsidered. 

Vangelis received many awards in Greece, France and the U.S. Little was known of his personal life besides that he was an avid painter. 

“Every day I paint and every day I compose music,” he said — in that order.

Abortion Rights Rollback in US Could Ripple Across Globe

The right of American women to have an abortion will be severely restricted if the Supreme Court reverses its 1973 decision to legalize the procedure. VOA’s Veronica Balderas Iglesias spoke to activists on three continents and found grave concern about what impact a U.S. ruling overturning Roe v. Wade could have around the world.
Videographer/Video editor: Veronica Balderas Iglesias

Explainer: What is Monkeypox and Where Is it Spreading? 

European and American health authorities have identified a number of monkeypox cases in recent days, mostly in young men. It’s a surprising outbreak of disease that rarely appears outside Africa.

Health officials around the world are keeping watch for more cases because, for the first time, the disease appears to be spreading among people who didn’t travel to Africa. They stress, however, that the risk to the general population is low.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a virus that originates in wild animals like rodents and primates, and occasionally jumps to people. Most human cases have been in central and west Africa, where the disease is endemic.

The illness was first identified by scientists in 1958 when there were two outbreaks of a “pox-like” disease in research monkeys — thus the name monkeypox. The first known human infection was in 1970, in a 9-year-old boy in a remote part of Congo.

What are the symptoms and how is it treated?

Monkeypox belongs to the same virus family as smallpox but causes milder symptoms.

Most patients only experience fever, body aches, chills and fatigue. People with more serious illness may develop a rash and lesions on the face and hands that can spread to other parts of the body.

The incubation period is from about five days to three weeks. Most people recover within about two to four weeks without needing to be hospitalized.

Monkeypox can be fatal for up to one in 10 people and is thought to be more severe in children.

People exposed to the virus are often given one of several smallpox vaccines, which have been shown to be effective against monkeypox. Anti-viral drugs are also being developed.

On Thursday, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control recommended all suspected cases be isolated and that high-risk contacts be offered the smallpox vaccine.

How many monkeypox cases are there typically?

The World Health Organization estimates there are thousands of monkeypox infections in about a dozen African countries every year. Most are in Congo, which reports about 6,000 cases annually, and Nigeria, with about 3,000 cases a year.

Patchy health monitoring systems mean many infected people are likely missed, experts say.

Isolated cases of monkeypox are occasionally spotted outside Africa, including in the U.S. and Britain. The cases are typically associated with travel to Africa or contact with animals from areas where the disease is more common.

In 2003, 47 people in six U.S. states had confirmed or probable cases. They caught the virus from pet prairie dogs that been housed near imported small mammals from Ghana.

What’s different about these cases?

It’s the first time monkeypox appears to be spreading among people who didn’t travel to Africa. Most of the cases involve men who have had sex with men.

In Europe, infections have been reported in Britain, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

Britain’s Health Security Agency said its cases are not all connected, suggesting that there are multiple chains of transmission happening. The infections in Portugal were picked up at a sexual health clinic, where the men sought help for lesions on their genitals.

On Wednesday, U.S. officials reported a case of monkeypox in a man who had recently traveled to Canada, where authorities are investigating suspected infections in the Montreal area.

Is monkeypox being spread through sex?

It’s possible, but it’s unclear at the moment.

Monkeypox has not previously been documented to have spread through sex, but it can be transmitted through close contact with infected people, their body fluids and their clothing or bedsheets.

Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, said it’s still too early to determine how the men in the U.K. were infected.

“By nature, sexual activity involves intimate contact, which one would expect to increase the likelihood of transmission, whatever a person’s sexual orientation and irrespective of the mode of transmission,” Skinner said.

Francois Balloux of University College London said monkeypox said sex qualifies as the kind of close contact needed to transmit the disease.

The U.K. cases “do not necessarily imply any recent change in the virus’ route of transmission,” Balloux said.

Female Referees to Officiate Men’s World Cup for 1st Time 

Female referees will make World Cup history this year by working games at a major men’s tournament for the first time in Qatar.

Three female referees and three female assistant referees were announced Thursday by FIFA among 129 officials selected for World Cup duty, including one man who caused controversy when refereeing a chaotic African Cup of Nations game in January while suffering with heatstroke.

French referee Stéphanie Frappart already worked men’s games in World Cup qualifying and the Champions League, after handling the 2019 Women’s World Cup final. She also refereed the final of the men’s French Cup this month.

“As always, the criteria we have used is ‘quality first’ and the selected match officials represent the highest level of refereeing worldwide,” said FIFA Referees Committee chairman Pierluigi Collina, who worked the 2002 World Cup final. “In this way, we clearly emphasize that it is quality that counts for us and not gender.”

Salima Mukansanga of Rwanda and Yoshimi Yamashita of Japan are also on the list of 36 referees preparing for the 64 games at the tournament, which will be played from Nov. 21-Dec. 18.

The 69 assistant referees include Neuza Back of Brazil, Karen Díaz Medina of Mexico and Kathryn Nesbitt of the United States.

“I would hope that in the future the selection of elite women’s match officials for important men’s competitions will be perceived as something normal and no longer as sensational,” Collina said.

Among the male referees is Janny Sikazwe of Zambia, who blew the final whistle at an African Cup group match after 85 minutes and again 13 seconds before the 90 minutes were complete, with Mali leading Tunisia 1-0.

About 30 minutes after the match, officials ordered the teams back on the field to restart play but Tunisia refused. The result was later ratified by the Confederation of African Football despite an official protest by Tunisia.

The match was played in heat and humidity in Cameroon, and Sikazwe later explained he started to become confused in the intense conditions.

Sikazwe will be working at his second World Cup after handling two group games at the 2018 tournament in Russia.

The extreme heat in Qatar led FIFA to decide in 2015 to move the tournament to the cooler months in the Gulf emirate.

FIFA has picked 24 men to work on video reviews. The VAR system made its debut in 2018.

FIFA said 50 referee-and-assistant trios began preparing in 2019 for World Cup duty, with the project affected by limits on international travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two referees were picked from each of Argentina, Brazil, England and France.

All the officials — who were not allocated into specific teams of three — face future technical, physical and medical assessments this year, FIFA said.

Monkeypox Spreads in Europe; US Reports Its First Case

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health on Wednesday said it had confirmed a single case of monkeypox virus infection in a man who had recently traveled to Canada.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said its labs confirmed the infection to be monkeypox on Wednesday afternoon.

The state agency said it was working with CDC and relevant local boards of health to carry out contact tracing, adding that “the case poses no risk to the public, and the individual is hospitalized and in good condition.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada late on Wednesday issued a statement saying it is aware of the monkeypox cases in Europe and is closely monitoring the current situation, adding no cases have been reported at this time.

Monkeypox, which mostly occurs in west and central Africa, is a rare viral infection similar to human smallpox, though milder. It was first recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1970s. The number of cases in West Africa has increased in the last decade.

Symptoms include fever, headaches and skin rashes starting on the face and spreading to the rest of the body.

The Massachusetts agency said the virus does not spread easily between people, but transmission can occur through contact with body fluids, monkeypox sores, items such as bedding or clothing that have been contaminated with fluids or sores, or through respiratory droplets following prolonged face-to-face contact.

It said no monkeypox cases had previously been identified in the United States this year. Texas and Maryland each reported a case in 2021 in people with recent travel to Nigeria.

The CDC also said it is tracking multiple clusters of monkeypox reported in several countries including Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom, within the past two weeks.

A handful of cases of monkeypox have recently been reported or are suspected in the United Kingdom, Portugal and Spain.

Earlier on Wednesday, Portuguese authorities said they had identified five cases of the infection and Spain’s health services said they were testing 23 potential cases after Britain put Europe on alert for the virus.

European health authorities are monitoring any outbreak of the disease since Britain reported its first case on May 7 and has found six more in the country since then.