Science & Health

Study: Farmers Face Climate Change Threat to Their Farms, Incomes

About 76% of farmers are worried about the future impact of climate change, while 71% say it already has had an impact on their farms and incomes, a recent survey by life science company Bayer Group found.

Researchers interviewed 800 farmers in eight countries — Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, India, Kenya, Ukraine and the United States — and said that 568 of those farmers have witnessed the impact of climate change directly on their farms.

About 80% of them have experienced heat effects and anticipate reduced yields in the coming years.

Rodrigo Santos, president of the Crop Science Division at Bayer, said that despite the impact of climate change on farming communities, there will be more demand for food harvested from less land in the coming years.

“We need to produce 50% more food … with 20% less land per capita than we do today,” Santos said.

“Climate change for us, when we live in the cities, is one thing, but for the farmers it is impacting their yields, it’s impacting their production, it’s impacting their ability to produce food and feed,” he said.

The report said that 73% of farmers interviewed in Kenya, for instance, have faced drought. Persistent droughts in the East African nation have resulted in crop losses and livestock deaths.

The report highlights that 1 in every 6 farmers worldwide suffered a nearly 16% loss of income due to adverse weather conditions over the past two years.

Unpredictable weather patterns and insufficient seed varieties exacerbated food insecurity in Africa, according to experts.

The head of Africa Agribusiness International Finance Corp. at the World Bank, Yosuke Kotsuji, said the continent needs to adopt new farm technologies faster.

“The headache is how to scale technology dissemination,” he said. “The way you and I can farm — next door we can get quite different results.”

According to experts, older African farmers encounter difficulties when it comes to embracing technologies, unlike their younger counterparts on the continent.

Most farmers surveyed mentioned that they either currently implement or plan to adopt methods that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, over 50% of them are striving to enhance biodiversity.

Doaa Abdel-Motaal, a senior counselor at the World Trade Organization, said there is a need to facilitate the easy movement of food in different countries to fight food insecurity.

“We also need to take into account the fact that the climate crisis is progressing and there will be more climate calamities, unfortunately, in different parts of the globe,” Abdel-Motaal said. “So allowing food to move from country A to country B to counter those calamities so that countries don’t starve is absolutely essential.

“Where countries find themselves on the map is no more than an accident of geography. There are some countries that are completely dependent on imported food for their food security,” he said.

Farmers worry about escalating fertilizer costs, energy prices and fluctuations in prices and income, the report said.

Economy & business/Silicon Valley & Technology

Arizona Governor: Taiwan Firm’s Semiconductor Plant Back on Schedule

Earlier this year, Taiwanese semiconductor giant TSMC announced that it was delaying the opening of a computer chip plant in the U.S. state of Arizona because of a shortage of specialized workers. But during a visit to Taiwan this week, Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs told officials that the project is back on schedule and should have no further delays. From Phoenix, Arizona, Levi Stallings has our story.

Science & Health

 UNGA Approves Agreement with 5-Year Goal to End Tuberculosis

U.N. member nations Friday approved a “political declaration” that establishes a plan to end tuberculosis around the world in the next five years.

The plan, engineered by the World Health Organization (WHO), was approved during the U.N. General Assembly’s high-level meeting on tuberculosis in New York. It sets a goal that includes reaching 90% of the world’s population with TB prevention services, using a WHO-recommended TB rapid test for initial diagnosis, and licensing at least one new TB vaccine by 2027.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus – who led the meeting – says many of the targets established at the first high-level tuberculosis meeting in 2018 were not met, mainly because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He says the goal of treating 44 million people with TB fell short by about 10 million people, and the goal of reaching 30 million people with preventive treatment fell short by about half.

The target of funding providing $2 billion for research also fell short by about half between 2018 and 2020.

TB remains one of the world’s most deadly infectious diseases, the WHO chief says, killing more than a million people a year while infecting more than 10 million.

Tedros says there are also about 500,000 drug-resistant TB cases each year.

The WHO reports new cases and deaths from TB rose between 2020 and 2021 – the peak years of the pandemic – but adds that coordinated efforts since then have seen some improvement in the numbers.

As it did with COVID-19 during the pandemic, the WHO has also launched a TB vaccine accelerator program designed to speed up the development, testing and authorization of new TB vaccines.

The WHO says there is currently only one licensed TB vaccine, and while it has proved to be moderately effective in preventing severe TB in infants, it inadequately protects adolescents and adults, who account for 90% of TB transmission globally.

Arts & Entertainment/Economy & business

Sudanese Filmmakers Who Fled War Screen Work in Nairobi

When an award-winning Sudanese filmmaker documented the journey of Sudan’s martial arts team, which traveled by road to Kenya for an international championship in 2019, he did not know that four years later he would be taking a similar path as he did in the film “Journey to Kenya” but for completely different reasons. VOA Nairobi Bureau Chief Mariama Diallo recently attended the screening of his movie and those of other Sudanese filmmakers and has this story.

Science & Health

The Fall Equinox Is Here; What Does That Mean?

Fall is in the air — officially.

The equinox arrives on Saturday, marking the start of the fall season for the Northern Hemisphere.

But what does that actually mean? Here’s what to know about how we split up the year using the Earth’s orbit.

What is the equinox?

As the Earth travels around the sun, it does so at an angle.

For most of the year, the Earth’s axis is tilted either toward or away from the sun. That means the sun’s warmth and light fall unequally on the northern and southern halves of the planet.

During the equinox, the Earth’s axis and its orbit line up so that both hemispheres get an equal amount of sunlight.

The word equinox comes from two Latin words meaning equal and night. That’s because on the equinox, day and night last almost the same amount of time — though one may get a few extra minutes, depending on where you are on the planet.

The Northern Hemisphere’s spring — or vernal — equinox can land between March 19 and 21, depending on the year. Its fall – or autumnal — equinox can land between Sept. 21 and 24.

What is the solstice?

The solstices mark the times during the year when the Earth is seeing its strongest tilt toward or away from the sun. This means the hemispheres are getting very different amounts of sunlight — and days and nights are at their most unequal.

During the Northern Hemisphere’s summer solstice, the upper half of the Earth is tilted in toward the sun, creating the longest day and shortest night of the year. This solstice falls between June 20 and 22.

Meanwhile, at the winter solstice, the Northern Hemisphere is leaning away from the sun — leading to the shortest day and longest night of the year. The winter solstice falls between December 20 and 23.

What’s the difference between meteorological and astronomical seasons?

These are just two different ways to carve up the year.

Meteorological seasons are defined by the weather. They break down the year into three-month seasons based on annual temperature cycles. By that calendar, spring starts on March 1, summer on June 1, fall on Sept. 1 and winter on Dec. 1.

Astronomical seasons depend on how the Earth moves around the sun.

Equinoxes, when the sun lands equally on both hemispheres, mark the start of spring and autumn. Solstices, when the Earth sees its strongest tilt toward or away from the sun, kick off summer and winter.

Science & Health

Australia to Examine National COVID-19 Response

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese Thursday announced the government will conduct a yearlong inquiry into the country’s approach to COVID-19, but opposition politicians say the limited scope and powers of the inquiry will make it “a complete waste of time.”   

International border closures made Australia a fortress for much of the pandemic.  It had some of the world’s longest and toughest lockdowns.

Australian efforts to contain the virus were some of the most restrictive in the world, with residents of Melbourne spending more time in lockdowns than almost any other urban area. 

An inquiry, announced by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will look at the health and economic issues raised by the COVID-19 pandemic and bureaucratic obstacles to responding to it. 

Three independent experts, to be appointed by the government, will examine vaccinations, the availability of personal protective equipment and public health campaigns as well as financial support for businesses and individuals.   

Albanese told reporters Thursday that an independent inquiry will help to prepare Australia for the next pandemic.

“It was a time where Australians joined together,” said Albanese. “They made sacrifices. We need to examine what went right, what could be done better with a focus on the future because the health experts and the science tells us that this pandemic is not likely to be the last one.”

The federal inquiry follows up to 20 other state probes into COVID-19 in Australia.

Experts hope the new inquiry will provide a comprehensive nationwide assessment of Australia’s response to the pandemic.

Nancy Baxter, head of the School of Population and Global Health at the University of Melbourne, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Australia must be prepared for the next global virus outbreak.

“The focus of this should be on what we do differently in the next pandemic or what we do similarly,” said Baxter. “We need to learn.  Unfortunately, we will likely face another pandemic in our lifetime and so we need to be able to face that in a better way than we did COVID-19.”  

Only federal government decisions, not those of state and territory authorities, will be scrutinized.  Opposition lawmakers have said the probe therefore will not go far enough.  

Albanese has not said whether the inquiry would have powers to force political leaders to testify. 

The expert panel has been given a year for its work. 

Over the past week, more than 5,000 cases were reported across the country, according to official data but Australian authorities say the virus’s impact on the health system is fading.   

Arts & Entertainment/Economy & business

Asian Games Open Saturday in China

The Asian Games are an attention grabber. For starters, they involve more participants than the Summer Olympics. Organizers say more than 12,000 will be entered when the opening ceremony takes place Saturday in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou. That is more than the 10,500 expected for next year’s Paris Olympics.

The giant numbers are partly due to the staggering array of events with many regional specialties, sports, and games you won’t find in the Olympics. And there’s also cricket, which appears headed to the Olympics as soon as 2028 in Los Angeles, and certainly for 2032 in Brisbane, Australia.

And there’s squash, which has tried several times for Olympic recognition.

The regional fare includes dragon boat racing, sepaktakraw — sometimes called “kick volleyball — wushu, a Chinese martial art, and kabaddi, a popular contact sport on the Indian subcontinent. There is also the non-Olympic martial art of ju-jitsu, and kurash, a form of wrestling popular in central Asia.

To this, add a long list of what organizers call “mind sports” from bridge to chess to xiangqi (Chinese chess) to esports.

Of course, there are the old standbys seen in every Olympics like track and field, swimming, or volleyball — and the usual grandiose opening and closing ceremonies. Nine sports will offer qualification spots for the Olympics — archery, artistic swimming, boxing, breaking, hockey, modern pentathlon, sailing, tennis, and water polo.

However, most of the 481 events offer a chance for smaller delegations to win medals, which is often impossible at the Olympics.

China won almost 300 overall medals at the last Asian Games in Indonesia in 2018. At the bottom of the table, Syria and Nepal won a lone medal each. Bhutan and Bangladesh were among nine delegations that didn’t win any.

China will dominate the medal table as it has for the last 40 years, followed by Japan and South Korea — Asia’s other powers. The vast region stretches from Lebanon on the Mediterranean, through central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, to North Korea with organizers saying 45 nations or territories are entered.

Organizers have said 191 participants from North Korea will be on hand. North Korea closed its border early in 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic and skipped the Tokyo Olympics, which were delayed a year until 2021. The Asian Games were also pushed back a year from 2022 because of the pandemic.

According to South Korea’s Unification Ministry, the last time North Korean athletes appeared in an international sports competition was January 2020, when North Korea competed in the Asian Football Confederation’s under-23 soccer championship.

If you like political intrigue, there may be plenty of it.

The self-governing island of Taiwan will be on hand in China, which claims the democracy as a breakaway province that it has vowed to reclaim. Known as the Republic of China, the island is officially listed as Chinese Taipei in the Olympics and Asian Games and marches under a white flag adorned with the Olympics rings. Its red, blue and white flag is not allowed.

Taiwan, with only 23.5 million, is a relative sports power in the region and finished seventh in the overall medal standings in Indonesia.

The games also begin amid an open power struggle between International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Kuwait’s Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, a long-time IOC member who is often described as the “kingmaker” who helped Bach win the IOC presidency in Buenos Aires in 2013.

The Switzerland-based IOC openly intervened in July to invalidate the presidential election of the Olympic Council of Asia. It has also suspended Sheikh Ahmad from the IOC.

The election was ostensibly won by Kuwait’s Sheikh Talal Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, the younger brother of Sheikh Ahmad. The elder sheikh is the former 30-year president of the OCA, an organization that was created by his father.

The IOC says it will continue to recognize Randhir Singh of India as interim president of the OCA until new elections are held. Bach will attend the opening ceremony in Hangzhou and is sure to have talks with Singh.

The biggest event of the games might be a possible India vs. Pakistan gold-medal game in men’s cricket on Oct. 7, which would be one of the most-watched global sports events all year. It comes just as cricket’s world cup is also under way.

China will again dominate diving, and several of China’s top swimmers — fresh from the world championships two months ago in Fukuoka, Japan — will shine. The field in gymnastics is weakened since the world championships in Antwerp, Belgium, clash with the Asian Games.

The biggest winner at the Asian Games might be South Korea esports star Lee Sang-hyeok, who is also known as “Faker.” If he wins gold he will be granted an exemption from military service.

Tottenham Hotspur soccer forward Son Heung-min also bypassed a 21-month military stint because of a government exemption when South Korea won the gold medal in soccer at the 2018 games in Indonesia — although Son still had to do three months of basic training. 

Arts & Entertainment/Economy & business

Rupert Murdoch, Creator of Fox News, Stepping Down as Head of News Corp. and Fox Corp.

Rupert Murdoch, the 92-year-old media magnate who created Fox News, is stepping down as leader of both Fox’s parent company and his News Corp. media holdings.

Fox said Thursday that Murdoch would become chairman emeritus of both companies. His son, Lachlan, will become News Corp. chairman and continue as chief executive officer of Fox Corp.

Lachlan Murdoch said that “we are grateful that he will serve as chairman emeritus and know he will continue to provide valued counsel to both companies.”

Besides Fox News, Murdoch started the Fox broadcast network, the first to successfully challenge the Big Three of ABC, CBS and NBC. He is owner of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post.

Murdoch is a force in the conservative world, where Fox News Channel has profoundly influenced television and the nation’s politics since its start in 1996.

Murdoch vowed in a letter to employees that he would remain engaged at Fox.

“In my new role, I can guarantee you that I will be involved every day in the contest of ideas, Murdoch wrote. “Our companies are communities, and I will be an active member of our community. I will be watching our broadcasts with a critical eye, reading our newspapers and websites and books with much interest.”

There was no immediate word on why Murdoch’s announcement came now. Ironically, it is the week author and Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff is publishing a book, “The End of Fox News,” speculating on what will happen to the network when the patriarch is gone.