Month: January 2020

Rapper Missy Elliott, H.E.R. Team Up for Pepsi Super Bowl Ad

Almost three years ago, Missy Elliott sent a tweet to a then under-the-radar artist whose music she admired and told her that “she was going to blow up.”
Fast forward to this week and H.E.R. has been nominated for 10 Grammys, won two and is now starring with the rap legend in a new Pepsi commercial that will debut for the Super Bowl.
“When Pepsi reached out and said we want to have you on the Super Bowl commercial and the other person would be H.E.R. I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is major’” Elliott said.
Elliott first heard of the “Best Part” singer from a friend who had her debut album on repeat. Elliott thought the record was “hot” and “immediately started Googling her,” but couldn’t find much information beyond her mixtape.
“It made me fall in love with her music,” Elliott told The Associated Press in a recent phone interview. “I didn’t get into what she looked like, what she said, what she had on, it was just the lyrics and the tracks and all that and I was like, `This girl is really talented’.”
Now the pair are collaborating on a cover of the Rolling Stones’ classic “Paint it Black” for the commercial.
The animated ad features H.E.R’s sultry sound awash in red, surrounded by fluid dancers swishing long, red trains before it melds into a black stage punctuated by an upbeat rap from Elliott. The new track was co-produced by Elliott and longtime collaborator Timbaland with original lyrics from both artists and guitar and vocals from H.E.R.
“ It’s scary when you’re having to recreate something that is so iconic and make sure that you do it justice,” said Elliott, who performed at the Super Bowl with Katy Perry in 2015.
The two are the latest to join Pepsi’s ad lineup, joining the ranks of Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner and Britney Spears.
They bonded in the studio, where H.E.R. said they got to know each other on a more personal level.
“She was telling me tour stories … I felt like I had the inside scoop. It was really cool to peek into her world,” said H.E.R. “She’s just dope musically. There’s nobody like Missy.”
She added she’s always admired Elliott’s individuality and creativity as a producer.
“Missy’s vibe is what I really loved and looked up to growing up, just how different she dared to be.”
So can fans expect to see the artists make an appearance in Miami for the big game?
H.E.R. is still recovering from her whirlwind Grammy weekend: She performed on the telecast and was nominated for five Grammys, including record, song and album of the year. And Elliott is, um well, a little afraid to come to Miami even though she owns two houses here.
 “Last time I was there I went to open the door and a gecko lizard jumped on my shoulder and I swore I’d never come back. I was so scared … those little gecko lizards are everywhere.”

Climate Activists From African Nations Make Urgent Appeal

Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate and peers from other African nations on Friday made an urgent appeal for the world to pay more attention to the continent that stands to suffer the most from global warming despite contributing to it the least.The Fridays For Future movement and activist Greta Thunberg held a news conference with the activists to spotlight the marginalization of African voices a week after The Associated Press cropped Nakate out of a photo at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.Nakate, Makenna Muigai of Kenya, Ayakha Melithafa of South Africa and climate scientist Ndoni Mcunu of South Africa pointed out the various challenges both in combating climate change on the booming continent of some 1.2 billion people and in inspiring the world’s response.“African activists are doing so much,” Nakate said. “It gets so frustrating when no one really cares about them.”The AP has apologized and acknowledged mistakes in sending out the cropped photo on Jan. 24 and in how the news organization initially reacted. The AP has said that it will expand diversity training worldwide as a result.Nakate said Friday she was very sad the photo incident occurred but added that “I’m actually very optimistic about this” as it has drawn global attention to climate activists in Africa and the various crises there.Muigai pointed to a recent locust outbreak that parts of East Africa have seen in 70 years, which threatens food security for millions of people in countries including Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia and is moving toward South Sudan and Uganda.Challenges include everything from deforestation to bad energy policies, Muigai said. They also include changes in storm intensity that brought two devastating cyclones to Mozambique a year ago, Mcunu said. And they include the recent drought crisis in South Africa’s Cape Town region, Melithafa said.“The narrative we have is Africans can adapt to this. That is actually not true,” Mcunu said.The warnings have been stark for Africa. No continent will be struck more severely by climate change, the U.N. Environment Program has said.Africa has 15% of the world’s population, yet is likely to “shoulder nearly 50% of the estimated global climate change adaptation costs,” the African Development Bank has said, noting that seven of the 10 countries considered most vulnerable to climate change are in Africa: Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Chad, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea.And yet “to date, energy-related CO₂ emissions in Africa represented around 2% of cumulative global emissions,” the International Energy Agency said last year.In some cases it is difficult to persuade people to care more about climate change because there are so many other pressing everyday issues such as poverty, unemployment and gender-based violence, Melithafa said. “That’s hard for the global north to understand.”Instead people should work to hold more developed countries accountable for producing the bulk of emissions that contribute to global warming, the activists said.“Every individual is needed in the fight against the climate crisis,” Nakate said. “Because climate change is not specific about the kinds of people it affects.”For her part, Thunberg firmly returned the spotlight to the activists from African countries.“I’m not the reason why we’re here,” she said, later adding: “We are fighting for the exact same cause.” And she noted that while whatever she says gets turned into a headline, that is not the case for many others.“The African perspective is always so under-reported,” Thunberg said.Nakate urged the audience to make 2020 the year of action on climate change after young activists in 2019 put the issue squarely at the center of global discussions.It won’t be easy, she noted: “It is the uncomfortable things that will help to save our planet.”

DJ Khaled, Cardi B, Gaga to Perform During Super Bowl week

DJ Khaled will be celebrating his first-ever Grammy win in the city where the former radio host built his career: Miami.The hitmaker will perform at multiple pre-Super Bowl events this week, which will be jam-packed with other A-list celebrities, including Diddy, Shaquille O’Neal, Lady Gaga, Lizzo, Post Malone, Kevin Hart, Vin Diesel, Cardi B, Chris Brown, Guns N’ Roses and Maroon 5.“Oh yeah, we’re definitely celebrating (this) week. I remember Super Bowl came here 10 years ago and it was a special time. We want to make this special, too,” Khaled said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I’m excited it’s in Miami.”Khaled is fresh off winning a Grammy Award for best rap/sung performance for “Higher,” a collaboration with late rapper Nipsey Hussle and R&B star John Legend.Super Bowl week will mirror the Grammys, which took place Jan. 26, with the number of big music stars performing ahead of Jennifer Lopez and Shakira’s halftime show Sunday at the Hard Rock Stadium, where the San Francisco 49ers will take on the Kansas City Chiefs.Khaled will perform at Bud Light Super Bowl Music Fest’s EA Sports Bowl, the VEWTOPIA Music Festival and Rolling Stone’s party.Others, too, will perform several times throughout the week, including Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, the Chainsmokers, DaBaby, Marshmello, Megan Thee Stallion, Meek Mill and Tiesto.Cardi B will perform at a concert celebrating the trailer for the upcoming film “Fast & Furious 9”; Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, John Cena and Tyrese will also attend, while Ludacris, Wiz Khalifa, Charlie Puth and Ozuna will hit the stage. The Grammy-winning rapper will also hold a late-night performance at LIV and headline VEWTOPIA.Lizzo will also double up with performances: She will sing at SiriusXM & Pandora Opening Drive Super Concert Series and then at the Planet Pepsi Zero Sugar party, which will also feature Harry Styles and Mark Ronson at Meridian at Island Gardens.Gaga, who headlined the halftime show in 2017, will perform at the same venue for AT&T TV Super Saturday Night, held a day before Super Bowl 54.Post Malone will hit the stage for Bootsy On the Water, a Bootsy Bellows pop-up, which will be hosted by Kevin Hart. Swae Lee, who collaborated with Malone on the hit “Sunflower,” will host an event to launch his shoe collection with Giuseppe Zanotti.Budweiser will launch the Budx Hotel on South Beach with events featuring Dwyane Wade and Halsey; Karamo Brown of “Queer Eye” is part of an event for Stella Artois; and Guy Fieri will host 2020 The Players Tailgate.Shaq’s Fun House, the NBA legend’s carnival-themed music festival, is coming back to Miami and will feature performances by Diddy, Pitbull, Diplo and Shaq himself, a.k.a. DJ Diesel.“Big Game Weekend has never seen a lineup like this!,” O’Neal said in a statement. “Bigger venue, bigger state fair sized carnival, bigger line-up.”O’Neal made his statement before the death of Kobe Bryant on Sunday in a helicopter crash that also killed Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people.In an Instagram post on Wednesday, O’Neal, who has been distraught since the tragedy, said he was debating whether he should still go to Miami.“Part of me wanted to stay to myself as I reflect what my brother and his family mean to me and my family,” he wrote. “But in thinking what would Kobe want, what would he do? Kobe would want us to push through and celebrate life. So let’s just do that.”He added he would donate all his proceeds to “all the families who lost loved ones and to the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Foundation.”

Pakistan Stops Flights To, From China Amid Coronavirus Concerns

Pakistan Friday temporarily halted all flights to and from China, effective immediately, a day after it decided to delay the opening of a key border crossing with the neighboring country following the coronavirus outbreak there.A spokesman for the Pakistan  Civil Aviation Authority said all flights “to and from China will remain suspended until February 2.” Abdul Sattar Khokar cited no reasons, saying the decision would effect 22 weekly flights.Chinese health officials reported Friday the respiratory virus that originated in the city of Wuhan has killed about 200 people, and the number of cases topped 9,000. The virus has spread to  18 countries outside China, including  South Korea, Japan, Australia, Canada  and the U.S.Pakistani officials say screening of travelers landing at national airports has already been tightened and emergency quarantine measures are in place but so far no confirmed coronavirus case has been reported from any part of the country.  Health officials in Islamabad, however, have confirmed four of the estimated 500 Pakistani students in Wuhan have been diagnosed with the disease and are undergoing treatment there. There are nearly 30,000 Pakistanis in China, mostly students.China has recently invested billions of dollars in infrastructure development projects in Pakistan under Beijing’s global Belt and Road Initiative. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship element of the initiative, includes projects that have been completed or are under construction, including highways, power plants, a key Arabian Sea port and special economic zones in Pakistan, leading to  a spike in the number of travelers between the two countries, including thousands of Chinese workers and engineers.  Khunjerab border postThe coronavirus outbreak in China has also prompted Islamabad to delay the annual opening of the only border crossing between the two countries, the Khunjerab Pass in northern Gilgit-Baltistan region.”As for Khunjerab border the government of Gilgit Baltistan has rescheduled its opening. Now it will be opened in April” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Aisha Farooqui said on Thursday.Under a longstanding bilateral understanding, Khunjerab – at more than 15,000 feet, the highest paved International border crossing in the world – is closed in November due to heavy snowfall and reopens around end of April.  However, this year Pakistani authorities had asked counterparts in China to open the border starting February 2 to allow the entry of scores of commercial containers that have been stranded on the Chinese side by the November closing.   

China Reports Nearly 10,000 Coronavirus Cases

China says it has nearly 10,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus. The virus has caused 213 deaths in China where it emerged late last year.The World Health Organization says the  worldwide spread of the virus is  a global health emergency, as well as an “extraordinary event” requiring a coordinated international response.The Trump administration is warning Americans not to travel to China.The State Department issued what it calls a Britain reported its first confirmed cases Friday.  “We can confirm that two patients in England, who are members of the same family, have tested positive for coronavirus,” said Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England.   He said the two are receiving “specialist” care from the country’s National Health Service.   India and Philippines have also confirmed their first cases, joining a growing list that includes Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, The United Arab Emirates and Vietnam.According to a BBC report, the infection is difficult to spot and stop because only an estimated one in five cases will result in “severe symptoms” which means people can spread the infection without having any symptoms or without knowing they have the infection.Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the Centers for Disease Control said they symptoms of a cold or the flu and the coronavirus are the same, but the risk factors are having visited China’s Hubei province or having close contact with those who have been there.The virus emerged in Wuhan in Hubei province.  Wuhan is the epicenter of the outbreak and it has been shuttered.  People have been instructed to stay home and public transportation has been shut down.Mi Feng, China’s National Health commission spokesperson said Friday, “The Chinese government has attached great importance to the epidemic control and we have already adopted the most stringent control measures . . . We hope to cooperate with other countries to safeguard regional and global health and public safety.”

Tight Security Promised for Super Bowl 54 in Miami

Florida and federal law enforcement agencies preparing for the Super Bowl this Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens say they are ready for anything, including a detonated bomb or massive food poisoning, but haven’t identified any threats.
Events for the 54th Super Bowl, between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers, kicked off Monday around South Florida, with an interactive Super Bowl Experience in Miami Beach and Super Bowl Live at Miami’s Bayfront Park. It’s a lot of mileage to patrol, but officials say they are well prepared. They had been planning for months and running drills.
Maj. Ed Caneva, the Miami-Dade Police Department operations commander for the NFL title game, said they identify a raft of different scenarios.
“We have been training and addressing anything,” Caneva said.
The Super Bowl has long been considered a potential target for terrorists or other violent extremists, and this year the game will be played amid rising tensions with Iran. But none of the games has ever been attacked. Anthony Salisbury, chief of the Homeland Security Investigations office in Miami, said law enforcement agencies nonetheless must be prepared.
“It’s all hands on deck,” Salisbury said. “This is a high-profile event. It’s the same with every Super Bowl. Nothing is being taken for granted.”
Several thousand federal, state and local law enforcement officials are involved in the game and the events leading up to it. Brian Swain, chief of the Miami Secret Service office and lead federal coordinator for the event, said there’s no intelligence thus far indicating any kind of threat.
“There is no specific credible threat right now,” Swain said. “I’m confident in our security plan.”
Streets will be blocked off. There will be scores of uniformed police officers and others in plainclothes roaming the stadium to ensure safety. Bomb-sniffing dogs will patrol, and fans must go through metal detectors.
The Federal Aviation Administration has imposed flight restrictions over Hard Rock Stadium and around some of the other events. The FAA has even produced a video called “No Drone Zone,” intended to curb the devices around game activities.
‘Enjoy the Super Bowl. Leave your drone at home,” the video says.
Commercial flights at Miami International Airport are unaffected.
There has been one potential close call in a past Super Bowl: Five years ago, federal authorities said they encountered a plot in Phoenix by a man who wanted to attack the Super Bowl and an adjacent mall and entertainment district in Glendale, Arizona, with pipe bombs. They said the man, Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, was unable to obtain the explosives, and the game between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks was not hit.
Kareem later was convicted of conspiring to provide the guns used in an attack on a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas in which two heavily armed associates were killed by local police officers. He also was convicted of providing support to the Islamic State group. His lawyers asked a judge to grant him a new trial or throw out his convictions.
This year’s Super Bowl will be the Miami area’s 11th, the most ever. Hard Rock Stadium is home to the Miami Dolphins and the University of Miami Hurricanes and hosts concerts for major acts including The Rolling Stones. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he’s confident the area is ready for this game as well.
“We know how to do it,” Gimenez said. “We’ve done this before, and we’re pretty good at it.” 

Super Bowl Security Ramps Up in Miami

Miami, Florida will host the 54th Super Bowl this Sunday. The Super Bowl is the championship American football  game for the top two teams in the sport’s two separate divisions. Thousands of fans, hotels and restaurants are getting ready for an entire weekend of celebrations. And there’s high security to match this giant event. VOA’s Cristina Caicedo Smit reports. 

Egyptian Archaeologists Unveil Ancient Tombs, Artifacts

Archaeologists on Thursday unveiled 16 ancient Egyptian tombs filled with sarcophagi and other artifacts from a vast burial ground.Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry announced the discoveries in the village of Tuna al-Gabal, near the Nile Valley city of Minya in central Egypt. The site boasts an array of previously excavated finds, including funerary buildings and catacombs filled with thousands of mummified ibis and baboon birds.The long-abandoned tombs date back to three dynasties, from 664-399 BC, in the Pharaonic Late Period.Among the new treasures presented: 20 sarcophagi made from limestone and etched with hieroglyphic texts, five wooden coffins, hundreds of amulets and 10,000 blue funerary statues, known as ushabti figurines, which are fixtures in the ancient tombs of the area. The sarcophagus lids are molded into mummy-like figures of men.While such contents can be looted or decay over time, Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, described the tombs as “in good condition” and the sarcophagi stone as “well-polished.”Waziri said the tombs likely belonged to the high priests of Thoth, the ancient Egyptian god of writing and wisdom, among other senior officials.The Ministry of Antiquities invited journalists to tour the site, shepherding film crews down ladders into dark, narrow shafts full of skeletons and sarcophagi.The Egyptian government frequently promotes archaeological finds to boost its vital tourism sector. The industry was hard hit by political turmoil following the 2011 popular uprising that toppled longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Brain Injuries in Iraq Put Attention on Invisible War Wounds

The spotlight on brain injuries suffered by American troops in Iraq this month is an example of America’s episodic attention to this invisible war wound, which has affected hundreds of thousands over the past two decades but is not yet fully understood.Unlike physical wounds, such as burns or the loss of limbs, traumatic brain injuries aren’t obvious and can take time to diagnose. The full impact — physically and psychologically — may not be evident for some time, as studies have shown links between TBI and mental health problems. They cannot be dismissed as mere “headaches” — the word used by President Donald Trump as he said the injuries suffered by the troops in Iraq were not necessarily serious.Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a veteran of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, told reporters Thursday that the number of service members diagnosed with TBI from the Jan. 8 Iranian missile attack in Iraq has now grown beyond the 50 reported earlier this week, although he provided no specific number. Milley said all are categorized as “mild” injuries, but in some cases the troops will be monitored “for the rest of their lives.”Speaking alongside Milley, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the Pentagon is vigorously studying ways to prevent brain injuries on the battlefield and to improve diagnosis and treatment. Milley said it’s possible, in some cases, that symptoms of TBI from the Iranian missile attack on an air base in Iraq on Jan. 8 will not become apparent for a year or two.“We’re early in the stage of diagnosis, we’re early in the stage of therapy for these troops,” Milley said.William Schmitz, national commander for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, last week cautioned the Trump administration against taking the TBI issue lightly.“TBI is known to cause depression, memory loss, severe headaches, dizziness and fatigue,” sometimes with long-term effects,” he said, while calling on Trump to apologize for his “misguided remarks.”Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr., a New Jersey Democrat and founder of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, faulted Trump for displaying “a clear lack of understanding of the devastating impacts of brain injury.”When it announced earlier this week that the number of TBI cases in Iraq had grown to 50, the Pentagon said more could come to light later. No one was killed in the missile attack, which was an Iranian effort to avenge the killing of Qassem Soleimani, its most powerful general and leader of its paramilitary Quds Force, in an American drone strike in Baghdad.Details of the U.S. injuries have not been made public, although the Pentagon said Tuesday that 31 of the 50 who were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury have recovered enough to return to duty. The severity of the other cases has not been disclosed.The Pentagon did not announce the first confirmed cases until more than a week after the Iranian attack; at that point it said there were 11 cases. The question of American casualties took on added importance at the time of the Iranian strike because the degree of damage was seen as influencing a U.S. decision on whether to counterattack and risk a broader war with Iran. Trump chose not to retaliate, and the Iranians then indicated their strike was sufficient for the time being.The arc of attention to TBI began in earnest, for the U.S. military, in the early years after it invaded Iraq in 2003 to topple President Saddam Hussein. His demise gave rise to an insurgency that confounded the Americans with crude but devastatingly effective roadside bombs. Survivors often suffered not just grievous physical wounds but also concussions that, along with psychological trauma, became known as the invisible wounds of war.“For generations, battlefield traumatic brain injuries were not understood and often dismissed,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat.The injuries have often been dismissed in part because the problem is not fully understood, although the Pentagon began focusing on the problem in the early 1990s when it established a head injury program that grew into today’s Defense and Veteran’s Brain Injury Center. Among its work, the center provides published reviews of research related to TBI, including links between severe TBI and behavioral issues such as alcohol abuse and suicide.A study published this month by University of Massachusetts Amherst health services researchers concluded that military members who suffered a moderate or severe TBI are more likely than those with other serious injuries to experience mental health disorders.Concern about TBI has recently given rise to questions about whether military members may suffer long-term health damage even from low-level blasts away from the battlefield, such as during training with artillery guns and shoulder-fired rockets.“We’re finding that even a mild blast can cause long-term, life-changing health issues,” said Riyi Shi, a professor of neuroscience and biomedical engineering at Purdue University.A 2018 study by the federally funded RAND Corp. found a dearth of research and understanding of potential damage to the nervous system from repeated exposure to these lower-level blasts. That same year, the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank, released a study urging the Pentagon to conduct a blast surveillance program to monitor, record, and maintain data on blast pressure exposure for “any soldier, in training or combat, who is likely to be in a position where he or she may be exposed to blasts.” It said this should include brain imaging of soldiers who have been exposed to blasts as part of the study to better understand how blasts affect the brain. 

WHO: World Needs to Be on Alert for Dangers Posed by Coronavirus

For the third time in one week, a World Health Organization Emergency Committee will meet to decide whether the new coronavirus poses a global health threat.  The latest number of confirmed cases has risen to 7,700, including 170 deaths. The two previous emergency meetings ended inconclusively.  WHO experts were split on whether the spread of the coronavirus was large enough to constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.  But this quickly evolving disease may change some of the doubters’ minds.FILE – Tedros Adhanom, WHO director-general meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Jan. 28, 2020.WHO Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praises the strong response taken by the Chinese government to try to stop the epidemic.  This includes the lockdown of Wuhan city, the epicenter of the disease and other cities in the country where the virus has been identified.But he acknowledges that events on the ground in China and abroad are moving too quickly to be ignored.  He says the emergence of any new pathogen with the potential to cause severe illness and death is of grave concern and must be taken with utmost seriousness.”The continued increase in cases and the evidence of human-to-human transmission outside China, are, of course, both deeply concerning.  Although the numbers outside China are still relatively small, they hold the potential for a much larger outbreak,” he said. So far, at least 70 cases of coronavirus have been found in more than a dozen countries, including the United States.  All of these cases are being imported by travelers from China.  An increasing number of countries are screening arriving passengers for infections and isolating them for the two-week incubation period.FILE – Chinese family wearing face masks walk in a pedestrian crossing in Bangkok, Thailand, Jan. 29, 2020.Executive director of WHO health emergencies program, Michael Ryan, says the situation is very fluid and changing by the hour.  He says the whole world needs to be on the alert now and take whatever action is needed to stop transmission of this deadly virus.”We are at an important juncture in this event,” he said.  “We, as WHO believe that these chains of transmission can still be interrupted.  This disease is spreading from person-to-person through personal contact between individuals.”  Ryan says the epidemic can be stemmed through proper hygiene, proper identification of cases, isolation and social distancing.  He says the Emergency Committee will consider the merits of declaring a global public health emergency.He says the WHO experts are likely to recommend a series of temporary actions for countries to undertake in a coordinated, measured fashion.  He says efforts to end an epidemic are always more effective when countries work together.     

China Counts 170 Virus Deaths, New Countries Find Infections

China counted 170 deaths from a new virus Thursday and more countries reported infections, including some spread locally, as foreign evacuees from China’s worst-hit region returned home to medical observation and even isolation.
India and the Philippines reported their first cases, in a traveler and a student who had both been in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the new type of coronavirus first surfaced in December. South Korea confirmed a case that was locally spread, in a man who had contact with a patient diagnosed earlier.
Locally spread cases outside China have been a worrying concern among global health officials, as potential signs of the virus spreading more easily and the difficulty of containing it. The World Health Organization is reconvening experts on Thursday to assess whether the outbreak should be declared a global emergency.
The new virus has now infected more people in China than were sickened there during the 2002-2003 outbreak of SARS, another type of coronavirus.
Thursday’s figures for mainland China cover the previous 24 hours and represent an increase of 38 deaths and 1,737 cases for a total of 7,711. Of the new deaths, 37 were in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, and one was in the southwestern province of Sichuan.
Three of Japan’s confirmed cases were among a group of evacuees who returned on a government-chartered flight from Wuhan on Wednesday. Japan’s foreign ministry said a second flight carrying 210 Japanese evacuees landed Thursday at Tokyo’s Haneda airport. Reports said nine of those aboard the flight showed signs of cough and fever.
India’s health ministry said a student in Kerala state who had been studying in Wuhan was confirmed to have the virus after returning home during the Lunar New Year break. Philippine health officials say a woman who traveled to the country from Wuhan via Hong Kong had tested positive.
    Passengers wear masks to prevent an outbreak of a new coronavirus in a subway station, in Hong Kong, Jan. 22, 2020.A flight arranged between the European Union and China departed Portugal en route to China to bring back 350 Europeans from the affected area. The U.S. said additional flights were being planned for around Monday, after it evacuated 195 Americans from Wuhan on Wednesday. They are being tested and monitored at a Southern California military base.
New Zealand, Australia, India, Singapore and other countries are also trying to get out their citizens. Taiwan, the self-governing republic China considers its own territory, has also asked to be able to repatriate its passport holders from Wuhan, but it and the United Kingdom said they were awaiting approval from Beijing.
    Airlines reduce service
Israel’s El Al , Spain’s Iberia and Korean Air joined the growing list of airlines suspending or reducing service to China.
In South Korea, residents in two cities where quarantine facilities are being prepared threw eggs and water bottles at government officials to protest plans to isolate in their neighborhoods 700 South Koreans the government plans to evacuate from China.
Amid reports of shortages in food and daily necessities in hot-spot areas, Chinese authorities are “stepping up efforts to ensure continuous supply and stable prices,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
It cited Ministry of Commerce data showing current reserves in Wuhan can ensure a secure supply of rice and cooking oil for more than 15 days, pork and eggs for more than 10 days and vegetables for about five days.
China’s highly developed online shopping and home delivery businesses were important in ensuring those confined to home by choice or by order could get food and other essentials.
“I’d just like to ask that folks don’t order anything other than the daily necessities,” Hou Yanbo, deputy director of market supervision from the National Post Administration, told reporters at a daily briefing.
China extended its Lunar New Year holiday to Sunday to try to contain the virus, but the wave of returning travelers could potentially cause the virus to spread further.
Transport ministry spokesman Wu Chungeng outlined a series of rigorous temperature checks and other “severe measures” to detect possibly infectious passengers. Transport restrictions such as those isolating Wuhan and suspending inter-provincial bus services would remain in place, Wu said.
“It’s definitely very challenging, but we’re confident we can exert effective control,`”Wu told reporters at the briefing.
School closings in Hong Kong, Beijing and other regions have been extended by at least two weeks.
The WHO emergencies chief, Michael Ryan, spoke in Geneva after returning from Beijing. He said China was taking “extraordinary measures in the face of an extraordinary challenge’ posed by the outbreak.A man wearing a surgical mask makes a child wear one outside the government general hospital where a student who had been in Wuhan is kept in isolation in Thrissur, Kerala state, India, Jan. 30, 2020.Most cases in China To date, about 99% of the cases are in China. Ryan estimated the death rate of the new virus at 2%, but said the figure was very preliminary. With fluctuating numbers of cases and deaths, scientists are only able to produce a rough estimate of the fatality rate and it’s likely many milder cases of the virus are being missed.
In comparison, the SARS virus killed about 10% of people who caught it. The new virus is from the coronavirus family, which includes those that can cause the common cold as well as more serious illnesses such as SARS and MERS.
Scientists say there are many questions to be answered about the new virus, including just how easily it spreads and how severe it is.
Chinese authorities have demanded anyone who traveled from or through Wuhan report to health authorities and self-quarantine themselves for 14 days, the maximum incubation period during which patients can be infectious even if they don’t show symptoms.
China has been largely praised for a swift and effective response to the outbreak, although questions have been raised about the police suppression of what were early on considered mere rumors, a reflection of the one-party Communist state’s determination to maintain a monopoly on information in spite of smart phones and social media.
That stands in stark contrast to the initial response to SARS, when medical reports were hidden as state secrets. The delayed response was blamed for allowing the disease to spread worldwide, killing around 800 people.
This time, in addition to working with WHO, China’s health minister Ma Xiaowei has been in touch with foreign colleagues, including U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.

Greta Thunberg Seeks to Trademark her Name to Stem Misuse

Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg said on Instagram on Wednesday she has applied to register her name and that of the Fridays For Future movement she founded in 2018, which has gone global and catapulted her to international fame.The move would allow legal action against persons or companies trying to use her name or the movement’s which are not in line with its values, she said.
“I assure you, I and the other school strikers have absolutely no interests in trademarks. But unfortunately it needs to be done,” she said on the social network.
Thunberg said she had also applied to trademark “Skolstrejk for klimatet,” school strike for the climate in Swedish — the wording on the placard she has held since she started her one-person protest outside the Swedish parliament in 2018, for which she missed school.
“My name and the #FridaysForFuture movement are constantly being used for commercial purposes without any consent whatsoever. It happens for instance in marketing, selling of products and people collecting money in my and the movement’s name,” she wrote on her Instagram account.
Thunberg, who took center stage at the Global Economic Forum in Davos this month, and her fellow young activists in the movement want politicians to listen to climate scientists and take action to curb global warming.

US Universities Watching for Coronavirus

At Arizona State University, which hosts more than 13,300 international students, people are wearing face masks and petitioning the school to cancel classes after the coronavirus was diagnosed in someone at the university who had recently returned from China.“From stores selling out of surgical masks to students calling for class cancellations, the 2019 novel coronavirus has taken ASU by storm since Sunday’s announcement that a member of the community was infected with the viral illness,” wrote the student newspaper, The State Press.While a planeload of Americans flown from China to the U.S. is being held at a California airbase for three days before they will be allowed to proceed into the country — and advised to stay for 14 to ensure they are not carrying the virus — international students have been flocking back to U.S. universities for the past two weeks with no barrier to entry.WATCH: As Coronavirus Outbreak Expands, Airlines Suspend Flights to ChinaSorry, but your player cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline. Embed” />CopyStudents on campuses where the virus is rumored or suspected to be present have donned surgical masks and asked officials to cancel classes, including Arizona State University. Many U.S. universities are holding their breath, monitoring students who have returned after the winter break.At Miami University in Ohio, health officials await the results of two possible cases of the coronavirus involving students returning from China, according to the Butler County Department of Health and the university. At Texas A&M, a student who presented with flulike symptoms tested negative for coronavirus.Meanwhile, some schools, such as ASU, have banned travel to China, where universities have robust exchange programs and satellite campuses.At New York University, the university with the largest population of international students — nearly 20,000 — in the largest city in the country, spokesman John Beckman said staff are vigilant.NYU’s statement was similar to those of other universities with large international student populations contacted by VOA. Many universities are issuing advisories for students to seek help at the campus health center when they experience symptoms, according to email and phone calls VOA made to 10 universities for their response to the coronavirus outbreak.“We have communicated directly with students who were from regions where travel restrictions are in effect to let us know if they are unable to return to school. We are reaching out to faculty who, our records reflect, have students in their classes who may be affected by the travel restrictions, and giving them guidance and options about how they can enable the students who may be stuck in China to participate in the class,” NYU spokesman John Beckman said.“Our health center staff has been in frequent direct contact with state and local health departments, and has been in touch with other universities’ health operations, as well as following guidance from the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) CDC and the (World Health Organization) WHO. In line with that guidance, we have directly communicated with all the students from affected areas, advising them about the symptoms of the illness, and instructing them to go to the Health Center if they are demonstrating the symptoms,” he said. “This is a time of year in which a lot of students present with respiratory illnesses, which the staff is trained and prepared to handle, so medical staff in our health center will have a heightened sensitivity to travel histories. The head of our health center also sent out a universitywide email about the virus last week, and we’ve established a page with information about the virus.”No federal guidelinesThe U.S. has no official policy or guidance for U.S. universities on how to handle international students who may be returning from points around the globe, including China, to schools in the U.S., according to a CDC spokesperson. There are more than 1 million international students in the country, including nearly 370,000 Chinese students, according to the Institute of International Education.The CDC “is closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China,” according to its website.The WHO is expected to meet Thursday to decide if the coronavirus outbreak is a global health emergency.And the University of Southampton in the U.K. convened an emergency study of the coronavirus outbreak, determining, “The spread of the new coronavirus is a fast-moving situation and we are closely monitoring the epidemic in order to provide further up-to-date analysis on the likely spread, including the effectiveness of the transport lockdown in Chinese cities and transmission by people returning from the Lunar New Year holiday, which has been extended to 2 February.” Two Bangladesh students who are in lockdown in Wuhan interviewed by VOA said while they were very scared, they did not want to leave in case they were infected with the coronavirus.“It’s better for me to stay in Wuhan,” said Jannatun Nahar, who is studying at Huazhong University of Science and Technology. “All the good doctors are here, military doctors are here.“If I go back, these [viruses] can be in your body and can stay in an incubation period for 14 days. In 14 days, I will already be contaminated. I think it’s a very big risk for me to go home now. Better for me to stay here,” Nahar said.VOA Bangla Service contributed to this report.

Apple, Broadcom Told to Pay California University $1.1B Over Patents

A federal jury Wednesday decided that Apple Inc. and Broadcom Inc. must pay $1.1 billion to the California Institute of Technology for infringing on patents.Apple was on the hook for nearly $838 million of the damages awarded in a lawsuit that said Broadcom used its patented Wi-Fi data transmission technology in computer chips that went into iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and other Apple devices.Caltech, the superstar tech school based in Pasadena, said it was pleased by the verdict of the Los Angeles jury.“As a nonprofit institution of higher education, Caltech is committed to protecting its intellectual property in furtherance of its mission to expand human knowledge and benefit society through research integrated with education,” a school statement said.Emails seeking comment from Cupertino-based Apple and Broadcom weren’t immediately returned Wednesday night but they are expected to appeal.Last week, San Jose-based Broadcom announced it had reached agreements to supply components to Apple devices released for the next three years.It wasn’t immediately clear what impact the lawsuit award would have on those deals, which Broadcom said could generate $15 billion in revenues.

Foreign Students Afraid, Frustrated in Wuhan

For the foreign students on lockdown in China where a deadly flulike coronavirus has emerged, days are marked by fear, frustration and boredom.“I wear a mask all the time,” said Redwan Mohamed Nur, an accounting student who told VOA he is one of 14 Somalis at Wuhan University and among 5,000 Africans studying in China. “I [am] so scared that I didn’t dare to open the window because I’m afraid the wind would blow the virus in.”Wuhan is home to dozens of universities and colleges. On Jan. 23, China closed off Wuhan, the center of a deadly outbreak of the coronavirus; 16 cities are locked down, more than 6,000 cases worldwide have been confirmed and at least 132 people are dead.Stuck in his dorm, he said he has left only once, and that was to walk to where school authorities distribute food to foreign students every other day. Elsewhere in China, An empty street is seen in Wuhan, Hubei province, China January 25, 2020, in this picture obtained from social media. Picture taken January 25, 2020.Chaniago said she’d received a week’s allowance from Indonesia’s embassy in Beijing, but added that shops and drugstores are closed. She and her friends are surviving on homemade chicken soup. “We understand that it’s hard for supplies to be sent in as the city is still in lockdown,” she said. “But we are puzzled as how to survive and protect ourselves from getting infected while at the same time being in the center of the outbreak, without enough food, water and medications.”She said she and her friends are wearing two masks at once.“There are masks handed out by the campus to survive, but they’re too thin,” she said. “It’s not the prescribed masks to prevent (the spread of) the virus.”At the Hubei University of Technology in Wuhan, “They have closed the dormitory doors so that nobody can go out,” Yusuf Abdullah, a Bangladeshi student told VOA. “If you order the food in the canteen, they will cook it for you and then they’ll send. But you can’t go outside.”  Abdullah said the Bangladeshi Embassy had opened a chat group on the Chinese WeChat platform to share information and concerns. On the group chat, Abdullah told VOA that participants asked the embassy to “evacuate us as soon as possible.”Sithu Htun is one of 57 students, and three parents, living in isolation in the international students’ dormitory on the Wuhan University campus. All the students all are scholars under the educational and cultural exchange program between China and Myanmar.The environmental engineering graduate student at the Wuhan University of Technology said everyone was in good health but worried about the supply of food and medicines. He told VOA that the Myanmar Embassy keeps in touch with them about possible evacuation.He said it would be great if developed countries offered assistance to evacuate them, as Japan and U.S. sent aircraft to evacuate its citizens from Wuhan. He said Burmese students are helping each other avoid feeling depressed about negative comments on social media that reflect a widespread distrust of China among Burmese. “My parents are very worried about my safety because I am an only child, an only son,” said Keat Pocheang, 24, a Cambodian student at Wuhan University. “They video call me about 10 times a day.” He said he is “disappointed” that his government has not taken steps to evacuate its nationals.Another Cambodian student, Tang Chivhour, 20, a native of Phnom Penh, is a student at Hubei University in Wuhan. He has lived in China for three years and speaks fluent Chinese. For the past week, Tang Chivhor said boredom has been the biggest challenge. “I have a few Korean friends who are stuck here. So, I hang out with them, chatting and reading together.”Shipon Hussein, a Bangladeshi doctoral student studying at East China Normal University in Shanghai, said university authorities are not allowing outside people to enter foreign students’ residential quarters. “There has been talk about evacuation process,” he said. He added he knew some Bangladeshi students stranded in Wuhan “wanted to go back to Bangladesh.”In China’s capital, Francisco Sithoi Jr., 22, a Mozambican student at the Beijing University of Technology, echoed what students trapped in Wuhan said, that it was becoming hard for him to get the food he needed, having to “go from supermarket to supermarket.”Jannatun Nahar, a Bangla student at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, echoed that the university officials were “taking care of us” and offering free meals and basic items like sanitizer. And while she, too, feels isolated, she says, she doesn’t want to go home.”I don’t want to go back … because in my country, the population density is huge,” she said. “If the virus is in my body … if I come back to my country, it might effect my family, my relatives, my country. In my personal opinion, I want to stay in China, I don’t want to spread the virus in my country.”Reporters from VOA’s Bangla, Burmese, Indonesian, Khmer, Portuguese and Somali services contributed to this report, which was written in the Mandarin service.

Wuhan Building Two Hospitals in Just Days

A massive mobilization is underway in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Officials are racing to build two new medical centers from the ground up in a matter of days. A new coronavirus spreading from the city is flooding the country’s health care system. Hospitals are overcrowded with sick people and those who think they may be infected. The new facilities aim to help carry the load. But experts say China’s health care system faces long-term challenges. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Nigeria’s Separated Conjoined Twins Live Normal Lives

NASSARAWA, NIGERIA — Nigerian twin girls joined in the chest and abdominal regions are now living virtually normal lives, weeks after being successfully separated at the state-owned National Hospital.  Medical experts say the operation was the most complicated case of conjoined twins separation ever performed in Nigeria.An event in Abuja to announce the successful separation of seventeen-month-old Nigerian twin sisters, Goodness and Mercy, starts on a celebratory note.The mother of the twins, Mariam Martins, was not celebrating when she learned her girls were conjoined.  She said their condition was undetected during pregnancy.”None of the scans showed that they were joined. The doctors didn’t know that they were joined, they only told me that they’re in one place and using one placenta,” she said.Sorry, but your player cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline. Embed” />CopyAfter delivery through a cesarean section, the girls were referred to the National Hospital from the medical center here in Nassarawa, where they were born.At the hospital, pediatricians and medical experts studied and nurtured them for a year before planning their separation.During that period, Mariam said coming home without her babies was not easy.”When I came back, I didn’t want people to come and see me, I was ashamed of myself. I felt I had committed a big abomination. At that time I didn’t know that it happens in some places, I thought I was the first. What have I done to be punished in this way. When people come to me, I feel they’re mocking me…shame,” she said.The girls are the first conjoined twins to be successfully separated at the government-run specialist center.The surgical separation of the twins, which lasted 13 hours, took place last November and was handled by a 78 -member medical team.The girls were then monitored by hospital authorities for any post-surgery complications before finally allowed to go home in January.Emmanuel Ameh is the pediatric surgeon who led the team.”For them, the size of the liver that was there actually was the size of two livers joined together. In terms of separating it we had very advanced equipment that helped us to separate it very quickly without losing much blood,” said the surgeon.The conjoined twins phenomenon is extremely rare – approximately 1 in 200,000 births.In the last decade, only 15 cases have been officially reported in Nigeria and the chances of survival for conjoined twins after separation are also usually slim.Nigeria’s health minister, Osagie Emmanuel, said the successful separation of the Martin twins is a testament for Nigeria’s health system.”We have demonstrated to ourselves that yes we can do it. And that demonstration will lift and increase the confidence in the health sector of this country,” said Emmanuel.Every year, Nigerian citizens spend millions of dollars to access health care abroad. Health authorities want to reverse that trend.Successes like this could be the game changer. 

US Warns Information-Sharing at Risk as Britain Approves Huawei 5G Rollout

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned that the United States will only pass information across what he termed “trusted networks” and criticized close ally Britain over its decision to allow the Chinese firm Huawei to build parts of the country’s 5G mobile network.  Speaking to reporters Wednesday en route to London, where he is due to meet Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Pompeo said putting Huawei into the British system “creates a real risk.”The top U.S. diplomat described Huawei as an extension of China’s communist party that is obligated to hand over information to the party, adding that the Trump administration will evaluate Britain’s decision. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to reporters aboard his plane en route to London, Jan. 29, 2020.”We will make sure that when American information passes across a network, we are confident that that network is a trusted one. We’ll work with the United Kingdom. We were urging them to make a decision that was different than the one they made and we’ll have a conversation about how to proceed,” Pompeo said.Britain had been agonizing over whether to allow Huawei to be part of its 5G rollout, twice postponing the decision since July last year. In the end, the government said it would allow the Chinese firm restricted access to a 35 percent market share of the periphery of the network, rather than the core elements.  Johnson told lawmakers Wednesday the decision offered the best of both worlds.Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly session of Prime Ministers Questions in Parliament in London, Jan. 29, 2020.”I think it is absolutely vital that people in this country do have access to the best technology available. But that we also do absolutely nothing to imperil our relationship with the United States, to do anything to compromise our critical national security infrastructure,” Johnson said at the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament.The announcement comes just days before Britain is set to formally leave the European Union on Jan. 31. Some lawmakers fear the Huawei decision could compromise the transatlantic relationship just as Britain seeks to build on its links beyond Europe after Brexit, with a group of Conservative MPs threatening to vote against the government’s 5G plans.”Certainly, U.S. politicians have made some bold threats over the last couple of weeks, but I think this storm will blow over,” said James Sullivan, head of cybersecurity at the London-based Royal United Services Institute. “From the UK’s perspective, this has been a risk-management decision based on technical assessments.”However, in Washington, Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Warner says there is bipartisan agreement that Britain has made the wrong choice.FILE – Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 28, 2020.”Huawei has been and will continue to be a national security threat,” Warner said. “The Brits are our strongest allies. We’ve got to find a way to work through this. I do recognize as well that in Huawei we’ve got an equipment vendor that while as a national security threat is also a lot cheaper than any of the other Western alternatives.”Those Western alternatives are lagging behind, notes cyber industry expert Mark Skilton of Britain’s Warwick Business School.”The issue just in a nutshell is whether you want to continue the economic growth 5G can create because of the speed and power of it, versus the national interests of the U.S., particularly over the Chinese dominating the market,” Skilton said. “5G networks promise to transform our lives through the so-called ‘internet of things.’ Everything from domestic refrigerators to critical national infrastructure will be connected through near-instantaneous networks. That presents many more ‘attack points.'”There is a threat of potentially embedding ‘Trojans’ or malware into these devices,” he added. “Now, if Huawei is the choice of hardware, then they could embed — and I’m not saying they are, but they could — embed this kind of surveillance technology or stealth technology.”  The European Union on Wednesday adopted similar guidelines to Britain, stopping short of banning Huawei but imposing strict security rules.For its part, Huawei welcomed the British decision Wednesday and insisted it does not “take orders” from the Chinese government.

Chinese Farmers, Supermarkets Race to Supply Food to Locked Down Wuhan

China has told farmers to step up vegetable production, opened roads for delivery trucks and is punishing those trying to profit in order to keep feeding residents of the locked down city of Wuhan at the center of the new coronavirus outbreak.Authorities cut most transport links to the central Chinese city last week to try to halt the spread of the flu-like virus. Thousands of cases have been reported in China, with a small number in countries including the United States, Thailand and Singapore.The unprecedented move prompted people in the city of 11 million to rush to supermarkets to stock up on instant noodles, vegetables and whatever else they could put their hands on.Residents say there has yet to be an acute shortage of food, although shelves are cleared quickly when goods arrive.Shouguang, the country’s biggest vegetable production base, in the eastern Shandong province, has been asked to deliver 600 tons of fresh vegetables to Wuhan every day in the next 10 to 15 days, said an official in Sunjiaji, one of Shouguang’s villages. Sunjiaji, whose main crop is cucumbers, was tasked with sending 60 tons in less than seven hours.”We got the order from our city government at 11 p.m. on Monday and we immediately contacted our farmers, asking them to pick cucumbers overnight and bring their harvest to us before 6 a.m.,” the official, who only gave her surname, Li, told Reuters by phone. “We sent 70 tons in the end,” she said. “We are waiting for the next order.”The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs issued a notice on Thursday, urging related departments to coordinate to maintain ample supplies of vegetables and stable prices. Other areas like Xinjiang are also sending supplies.Delivery trucks carrying food are exempt from travel restrictions if they have government permits. Authorities have cracked down on cases of price hikes and publicized them to warn others.On Tuesday, a supermarket in Zhengzhou in Henan Province was fined 500,000 yuan ($72) for selling Chinese cabbage at 63 yuan, instead of the usual 17 yuan, according to local media. “The green channel into Wuhan is smooth,” said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during a visit to the city this week.A customer walks in a supermarket in Wuhan, Hubei province, China Jan. 29, 2020, in this picture obtained from social media.Still toughOthers in Wuhan said it was far from smooth.Worries over how long the city’s quarantine might last are spurring many to stockpile, a Wuhan resident said. People across China have been told to stay away from public areas to lower the risk of infection and many stay indoors.”In the morning there are vegetables in supermarkets but the shelves are cleared quickly as a lot of people buy large amounts,” she said, describing stores as “war zones.””You buy whatever’s left on the shelf because that will be gone too.” Wushang Group, the largest local supermarket in Wuhan with nearly 30 stores, said its biggest challenge was a lack of staff and almost all company employees had become delivery personnel, opting to use their private cars to transport goods.Their cars are sometimes stopped by police due to the travel restrictions, but are usually let go if they explain that they are transporting supplies, said a company official who would only give her surname as Gan.”On the night of Jan. 25, 400 tons of vegetables arrived in Wuhan from Chongqing and we were given 120 tons,” she said. About a hundred Wushang employees volunteered to unload and transport the goods, she said. “On average every person unloaded more than a ton of vegetables that night.”The lack of staff and delivery services is plaguing other parts of the food supply chain in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, others said. A number of smaller cities in Hubei have also been locked down due to the outbreak.Wuhan’s largest wholesale grocery outlet, the Baishazhou Agricultural Products Market, supplies supermarkets and big restaurants in neighboring cities in Hubei province, such as Huangshi and Jiujiang, but is seeing fewer customers due to the restrictions.”We have plenty of vegetables,” said Yuan, an employee in the market’s vegetable department. “But a lot are going rotten.”

Crash-Warning Device Might Not Have Saved Bryant Helicopter

The helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant didn’t have a long-recommended warning system to alert the pilot he was too close to the ground, but it is not clear whether it would have averted the foggy-weather crash, investigators and other experts say.At issue is what’s known as a Terrain Awareness and Warning System, or TAWS, which would have sounded an alarm if the aircraft was in danger.While the cause of the wreck that killed the former NBA superstar, his 13-year-old daughter and the seven others aboard Sunday is still under investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board may again recommend that helicopters with six or more passenger seats be required to have such equipment.The pilot in Sunday’s crash, Ara Zobayan, had been climbing out of the clouds when the chartered aircraft banked left and began a sudden and terrifying 1,200-foot (366-meter) descent that lasted nearly a minute, investigators said Tuesday. It slammed into a fog-shrouded hillside, scattering debris more than 500 feet (150 meters).”This is a pretty steep descent at high speed,” the NTSB’s Jennifer Homendy said. “We know that this was a high-energy impact crash.”The last of the victims’ bodies were recovered Tuesday, and coroner’s officials said the remains of Bryant, Zobayan and two other passengers have been identified using fingerprints.The NTSB recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration require TAWS after a similar helicopter, a Sikorsky S-76A carrying workers to an offshore drilling ship, crashed in the Gulf of Mexico near Galveston, Texas, killing all 10 people aboard in 2004. Ten years later, the FAA mandated such systems on air ambulances but not other helicopters.FAA officials had questioned the value of such technology on helicopters, which tend to fly close to buildings and the ground and could trigger too many false alarms that might distract the pilot.”Certainly, TAWS could have helped to provide information to the pilot on what terrain the pilot was flying in,” Homendy said of the helicopter that was carrying Bryant.At the same time, Homendy said it was too soon to say whether the pilot had control of the helicopter as it plummeted. And Bill English, investigator in charge of the NTSB’s Major Investigations Division, said it was not clear yet whether “TAWS and this scenario are related to each other.”Helicopter pilot and aviation lawyer Brian Alexander said any collision warning system on aircraft going over mountainous terrain is welcome. But he said the FAA recognizes such systems sometimes do more harm if they are going off constantly and distracting the pilot.In any case, he added, it is not clear one would have helped Bryant’s pilot if, as some aviation veterans have speculated, Zobayan had gotten disoriented in the fog.”Another warning system screaming at you isn’t going to help,” Alexander said.
The helicopter did have a warning system using GPS, said pilot Kurt Deetz, who flew Bryant dozens of times in the chopper over a two-year period ending in 2017. English said the NTSB is looking to confirm that.At the time of the crash, Bryant was on his way to a youth basketball basketball tournament in which his daughter Gianna was playing. Two of her teammates also were on the helicopter with parents.Zobayan, 50, was well-acquainted with the skies over Los Angeles and accustomed to flying Bryant and other celebrities, racking up thousands of hours ferrying passengers through one of the nation’s busiest air spaces. Friends and colleagues described him as skilled and cool-headed.His decision to proceed in deteriorating visibility, though, led experts and fellow pilots to wonder whether pressure to get his superstar client where he wanted to go played a role in the crash.Randy Waldman, a Los Angeles helicopter flight instructor who viewed tracking data of the flight’s path and saw a photo of the dense fog in the area at the time, said Zobayan should have turned around or landed but may have felt pressure to reach his destination, an occupational hazard often referred to as “got-to-get-there-itis” or “get-home-itis.””Somebody who’s a wealthy celebrity who can afford a helicopter to go places, the reason they take the helicopter is so they can get from A to B quickly with no hassle,” Waldman said.”Anybody that flies for a living there’s sort of an inherent pressure to get the job done because if too many times they go, ‘No, I don’t think I can fly, the weather’s getting bad or it’s too windy,’ … they’re going to lose their job.”Deetz said he often flew Bryant to games at Staples Center, and “there was never any pressure Kobe put on any pilot to get somewhere – never, never.”Coroner’s officials confirmed the remains of Bryant, 41; Zobayan; John Altobelli, 56; and Sarah Chester, 45. Relatives and acquaintances have identified five other victims as Gianna Bryant; Chester’s 13-year-old daughter, Payton; Altobelli’s wife, Keri, and daughter, Alyssa; and Christina Mauser, who helped Bryant coach his daughter’s team. 

US Promoters Push to Make Basketball Big in Africa

The death of American basketball star Kobe Bryant has caused worldwide mourning, and Africa is no exception. But along with the grief, there are signs of new enthusiasm for a sport that has, until now, not taken hold in much of the continent.Promoters have been trying to grow basketball’s presence on the continent for the past 20 years. With a rising number of African players now in the American NBA, those promoters hope Africans will embrace the region’s talents and efforts when the Basketball Africa League, or BAL,  launches in March.Twelve African teams from Mozambique, Senegal, Egypt, Nigeria, Mali, Cameroon  and many more will compete. The rules of the game will be up the standard of America and the world. The aim is to be excellent — and take on the best of them. “Ultimately we want to grow our business on the continent and the Basketball Africa League is a professional basketball league,” said Amadou Galo Fall, the NBA vice president and managing director for Africa, and the head of BAL.
“It is about building an industry and using basketball as an economic engine that is going to contribute to GDP of countries. The sports and entertainment industry and the creative industry in general contributes trillions of dollars in global GDP, and we want to make sure Africa starts to earn its part of this massive industry,” he added.FILE – Team World’s Jaylen Brown of Boston Celtics, gives away his shoes after playing the NBA Africa Game between Team Africa and Team World, at the Dome in Johannesburg, South Africa.Morocco’s AS Sale basketball club was crowned African champion in 2017 and is among the 12 teams winning a spot in the BAL. Other countries with participating teams include Mozambique, Senegal, Egypt, Nigeria, Mali and Cameroon.ElHassouni Abdallah, AS Sale’s secretary-general, says representing the African continent is a source of pride and the team is eager to present a good image.The National Basketball Association partnered with the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) to launch the new league. Among the challenges the promoters face: improving infrastructure — such as building more basketball courts — and persuading the region’s governments to invest more.   “To solve this problem of infrastructures, we need the commitment of the governments,” said Anibal Manave, head of FIBA Africa and a BAL board member. “For now, the best principle is to have public private partnerships. We believe this year Congo will build infrastructures, Guinea and Nigeria too. And we believe next year more countries will build infrastructures.”The participants of the Jr. NBA World Championship battle for the ball during the a basketball tournament for the top 13- and 14-year-old boys and girls teams for the NBA and FIBA’s global basketball development and community outreach program.Gender gapThere is also a gender gap to address. Organizers are focusing on helping more women and girls gain access to the court.”In all of our initiatives, we have boys and girls competing, training and learning from role models,” Gallo Fall said. “We are committed to really grow our sport across genders. The WNBA has been around since 1997, and the good news in Africa is that the women’s game is very strong.”Each BAL team is scheduled to play 5 games in the regular season. The final four tournament for the league will take place in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, around mid-year.