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Interactive Broadway Exhibit Opens in NYC

Showstoppers! – a bright and colorful exhibit of Broadway theatre has opened in New York City. Vladimir Lenski visited the exhibit which displays designs that are always in sight but seldom get the spotlight. Anna Rice narrates his story.

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White House Steps Up Work on What to do About Thawing Arctic

The Biden administration is stepping up its work to figure about what to do about the thawing Arctic, which is warming three times faster than the rest of the world.

The White House said Friday it is reactivating the Arctic Executive Steering Committee, which coordinates domestic regulations and works with other Arctic nations. It also is adding six new members to the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, including two Indigenous Alaskans.

The steering committee had been moribund for the past four years, not meeting at a high level, said David Balton, appointed to direct it. He said “it will step up and do more in the Arctic.”

The revamped committee will try to figure out what “needs to be done to get a better handle on addressing the changes in the Arctic,” Balton said.

University of Colorado scientist Twila Moon, who is not involved with the committee or commission, praised the developments. She said that because the Arctic is changing so quickly, “serious issues like national security, stability of buildings and roads, food availability, and much more must be considered and acted on promptly,” Moon said. “The U.S. cannot afford to sit back on Arctic issues.”

Balton, in an interview, said the Arctic is “opening up in a number of ways. Most of this is bad news.”

“But there’s also increased tourism and increased shipping, potentially other industries coming up into the Arctic that need regulation,” he said. “And right now the nations and the peoples of the Arctic are scrambling to keep up with this change.”

The new efforts emphasize working with Indigenous people.

“It’s really important to achieve these goals, so it has to be done in partnership with people who live in the area,” said committee deputy director Raychelle Alauq Daniel, a climate policy analyst and Yup’ik who grew up in Tuntuliak, Alaska.

Superpower tensions are likely to increase in the region as it becomes more ice-free in parts of the year, allowing not just more shipping but the temptation for going after resources such as oil, Balton said.

People who live in the Lower 48 states should still care about what happens in the polar region, Balton said.

“The Arctic is kind of a bellwether for what happens to the planet as a whole. The fate of places like Miami are tied very closely to the fate of Greenland ice sheet,” Balton said. “If you live in Topeka, Kansas, or if you live in California, if you live in Nigeria, your life is going to be affected. … The Arctic matters on all sorts of levels.”

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Biden: 60 Million Americans Eligible for COVID-19 Boosters

U.S. President Joe Biden said Friday that around 60 million Americans are eligible for a booster shot against the coronavirus.

His announcement came after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved a third Pfizer shot for those 65 and older, frontline workers and adults with underlying medical conditions.

Biden urged eligible Americans to get COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, and he said he would get his own shot as soon as possible.

In comments from the White House Friday, Biden said, “Like your first and second shot, the booster shot is free and easily accessible.”

The CDC approved the boosters for Americans 65 or older; frontline workers such as teachers, health care workers and others whose jobs place them at risk of contracting COVID-19; and those ages 50 to 64 with underlying conditions.

The booster shot will be available for those who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least six months ago. The White House said Friday 20 million Americans are eligible for the shot immediately, while a total of 60 million Pfizer-shot recipients will be eligible for boosters once they reach the six-month mark.

The European Union’s drug watchdog said Thursday it plans to decide in early October whether to approve a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for those over age 16.

Elsewhere, Norway’s government said Friday it would end all remaining coronavirus restrictions on Saturday.

“It is 561 days since we introduced the toughest measures in Norway in peacetime. … Now the time has come to return to a normal daily life,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg told a news conference. 

In Australia, health officials announced Friday that more than half the population had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

A wave of coronavirus infections has led to lockdowns in Australia’s two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, as well as the capital, Canberra. 

Health officials in South Korea said Friday the country set a record for daily cases with 2,434 in the past 24 hours, surpassing a record set last month. 

Officials said that although cases were spiking, the mortality rate and the number of severe cases remain relatively low. They attributed that in large part to a vaccination campaign that prioritized older people and those who were at high risk for disease.

In Singapore, the health ministry announced it was tightening restrictions to fight a wave of coronavirus infections. The new policies include limiting social gatherings to two people, down from five.

The ministry also reported 1,650 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, the highest since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Earlier this week, Singapore said 92% of the population had been fully vaccinated. Officials said about 98% of the confirmed coronavirus cases in the past four weeks were in people who had mild or no symptoms. 

Russia reported 828 deaths from COVID-19 in past 24 hours on Friday, the country’s highest daily number of the pandemic. The toll breaks the record set a day earlier.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Thursday in a video address to the United Nations General Assembly, “It is an indictment on humanity that more than 82% of the world’s vaccine doses have been acquired by wealthy countries, while less than 1% has gone to low-income countries,” 

The African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 4% of Africa’s population is fully vaccinated.

“The hoarding and inequitable distribution with the resultant uneven vaccination patterns across the globe is not acceptable,” Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said in a prerecorded message to the assembly on Thursday.

“Vaccine nationalism is self-defeating and contrary to the mantra that ‘no one is safe until everyone is safe.’ Whether in the global North or South, rich or poor, old or young, all people of the world deserve access to vaccines.”

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

 

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US Returns Ancient Gilgamesh Dream Tablet to Iraq

An ancient tablet displaying parts of the Epic of Gilgamesh that was stolen from Iraq 30 years ago was returned to that country on Thursday. The handover ceremony took place in Washington. VOA’s Sirwan Kajjo has more in this story.

Camera:  Mohammed Warmzyar 

Produced by: Sirwan Kajjo

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Economy & business/Silicon Valley & Technology
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Huawei Executive Resolves Criminal Charges in Deal with US 

A top executive of Chinese communications giant Huawei Technologies has resolved criminal charges against her as part of a deal with the U.S. Justice Department that could pave the way for her to return to China. 

The deal with Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of the company’s founder, was disclosed in federal court in Brooklyn on Friday. It calls for the Justice Department to dismiss the case next December, or four years after her arrest, if she complies with certain conditions. 

The deal, known as a deferred prosecution agreement, resolves a yearslong legal and geopolitical tussle that involved not only the U.S. and China but also Canada, where Meng has remained since her arrest there in December 2018. Meng appeared via videoconference at Friday’s hearing. 

The deal was reached as President Joe Biden and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have sought to minimize signs of public tension, even as the world’s two dominant economies are at odds on issues as diverse as cybersecurity, climate change, human rights, and trade and tariffs. 

A spokesperson for Huawei declined to comment, and a spokesman for the Justice Department in Washington did not respond to an email seeking comment. 

Charges unsealed in 2019

Under then-President Donald Trump, the Justice Department unsealed criminal charges in 2019, just before a crucial two-day round of trade talks between the U.S. and China, that accused Huawei of stealing trade secrets. The charges also alleged that Meng had committed fraud by misleading banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran. 

The indictment accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company called Skycom to sell equipment to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. 

Meng fought the Justice Department’s extradition request, and her lawyers called the case against her flawed. Last month, a Canadian judge didn’t rule on whether Meng should be extradited to the U.S. after a Canadian Justice Department lawyer wrapped up his case saying there was enough evidence to show she was dishonest and deserved to stand trial in the U.S. 

Huawei is the biggest global supplier of network gear for phone and internet companies, and some analysts say Chinese companies have flouted international rules and norms amid allegations of technology theft. The company represents China’s progress in becoming a technological power and has been a subject of U.S. security and law enforcement concerns. 

It has repeatedly denied the U.S. government’s allegations and the security concerns about its products. 

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CDC Approves Booster Shots for Some Pfizer Vaccine Recipients

The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has approved Pfizer vaccine booster shots for some individuals who completed their first vaccinations at least six months ago. 

Frontline workers – teachers, healthcare workers and others whose jobs place them at risk of contracting COVID-19 – will be able to get the boosters, in addition to people 65 and older, nursing home residents, and other people, aged 50 to 64, with underlying conditions

Rochelle Walensky added the frontline workers late Thursday to the list of those eligible for the boosters prepared by a CDC’s advisory panel. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for people 65 and older, those at high risk of severe disease and people who are routinely exposed to the coronavirus. 

 

The European Union’s drug watchdog said Thursday it plans to decide in early October whether to approve a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for those over age 16. 

The European Medicines Agency first approved a two-dose process but said breakthrough infections in those already vaccinated had added urgency to its review of a third dose for people 16 and older, six months after being fully vaccinated.

African leaders on vaccine inequity 

“It is an indictment on humanity that more than 82% of the world’s vaccine doses have been acquired by wealthy countries, while less than 1% has gone to low-income countries,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a video address to the United Nations General Assembly.

The African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 4% of Africa’s population is fully vaccinated.

“The hoarding and inequitable distribution with the resultant uneven vaccination patterns across the globe is not acceptable,” Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said in a prerecorded message. “Vaccine nationalism is self-defeating and contrary to the mantra that ‘no one is safe until everyone is safe.’ Whether in the global North or South, rich or poor, old or young, all people of the world deserve access to vaccines.” 

Antibodies passed to babies 

Pregnant women who are vaccinated against COVID-19 also pass on the coronavirus antibodies to their unborn children, according to a new study published this week in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology: Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

Researchers at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine examined 36 newborns whose mothers received either the Pfizer or Moderna two-dose vaccine regimen before giving birth, and found that every baby had antibodies when delivered.

The study did not determine how well the babies were protected from COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, or how long the protection might last.

Scientists have discovered that pregnant women develop antibodies in response to a vaccine or an infection, then pass them on to their babies either through the umbilical cord or breast milk.

“Studies continue to reinforce the importance of vaccines during pregnancy and their power to protect two lives at once by preventing severe illness in both mothers and babies,” said Dr. Ashley Roman, one of the study’s principal investigators.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month urged pregnant women and women who were recently pregnant to get vaccinated for COVID-19, saying there is mounting evidence that the benefits of the shot far outweigh any known or potential risks. 

Meanwhile, a new study published in the medical journal Nature Communications found that some COVID-19 patients develop so-called “autoantibodies,” or self-destructive antibodies, that could trick the immune system into attacking otherwise healthy tissue and cause inflammatory diseases. Scientists at Stanford University found autoantibodies in blood samples of at least 50% of nearly 150 patients admitted for treatment of COVID-19, compared to 15% of 41 healthy volunteers.

The researchers found the antibodies have the potential to aggravate the symptoms of COVID-19. 

The foundation that awards the Nobel Prizes announced Thursday that its annual banquet for the laureates in Stockholm has been canceled for the second consecutive year due to the pandemic. The Nobel Foundation said the winners for medicine, physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economics will receive their medals and diplomas in their home countries.

In a statement announcing the decision, the foundation said, “Everybody would like the COVID-19 pandemic to be over, but we are not there yet.” 

Some information for this report is from the Associated Press.

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Simple Australian First-Aid Technique Could Save Shark Bite Survivors

An Australian researcher has developed a new first-aid technique that could save shark attack victims from a fatal loss of blood in the crucial moments after the attack.

The method requires a rescuer or bystander to place his or her fist on the femoral artery, between the hip of the wounded leg and the genitals, and apply pressure using their full body weight to stop blood flow to the leg wound. It is a practice commonly used in some hospital emergency rooms for treating severe leg injuries.

The technique was developed by Dr. Nicholas Taylor, associate dean of the Australian National University Medical School and an avid surfer, and described in a paper published Friday in the Journal of Emergency Medicine Australasia.

Taylor says research has shown that compressing the femoral artery is more effective than applying pressure to a leg wound or using a makeshift tourniquet.

“You don’t need to be necessarily anywhere near the wound to make it work, and in some ways, it is less of a squeamish problem than trying to put pressure on a bleeding limb,” he said. “The trouble with a shark bite, they don’t just cause a clean cut, they cause lots of damage and trauma. They often break bones and rip muscle to pieces, and so trying to push on something to stop it bleeding is almost impossible. But pushing on the groin where there is no blood is actually an easy thing to do.”

Taylor says surfers are at a higher risk of a shark attack, and leg wounds are the most common injury. He says he would like his method to be promoted on first-aid posters at beaches around the world.

“On the International Shark Attack File, most of the shark attacks happen in the USA, followed by Australia, then South Africa and then Europe, and there’s a few islands like Reunion, which tends to get a, you know, disproportionate number of shark attacks,” he said. “Australia was unlucky to lead the world in fatalities in the last couple of years. You know, anywhere where there’s sharks, people are at potential risk, and I think this technique, if it’s well-known, could potentially be a lifesaver.”

The Australian research asserts that shark attacks “are increasing in frequency in Australasia and worldwide.”

The year 2020 was the worst for fatal shark attacks since 2013. The U.S.-based International Shark Attack File recorded 10 deaths last year. Six were in Australian waters.

 

 

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Somalia National Theater Reopens for Screening After Three Decades 

Somalia’s National Theater in Mogadishu held a landmark event Wednesday night, screening movies for the first time in three decades.

The theater was recently renovated and reopened after being destroyed twice – once in Somalia’s civil war, and then again in a 2012 suicide bombing.

More than 1,500 people attended the screenings.

The two films, Hoos, meaning “shadow” in Somali, and the other, Date of Hell, were screened in the Chinese-built theater constructed in 1967. 

Starring Egypt-based actor Kaifa Jama, the short films depict some of the challenges faced by young Somalis brought up outside the country and who are not familiar with Somali and Islamic culture. 

Jama said the films were produced in Cairo with no resources and largely on volunteers among her peers, with no payment for actors and actresses. She said the producers convinced hotels and hospitals to let them film on their grounds in exchange for advertisements in order to avoid extra costs. 

The theater also used volunteers for its reconstruction, which was overseen by the government. The building was completely destroyed during Somalia’s civil war in the early 1990s. It was rebuilt in 2012, only to be ruined again at its reopening after being targeted by an al-Shabab suicide bomber. Then-Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali survived the explosion, but dozens of others died.

For this renovation, workers installed some 1,500 new seats. The theater officially reopened last year and has hosted graduation ceremonies for local schools.

According to organizers, more than 1,000 tickets were sold for Wednesday night’s screenings.

Among the participants was Ilham Mohamud.

The moviegoer said she was very happy and excited to be at the national theater for the first time in her life. She said she felt patriotic regarding the progress that is continuously made in her country. 

Information and Culture Minister Osman Dube said the theater will host more events in coming weeks. He said the theater is expected to showcase films, plays, poetry, book fairs and comedy that reflect Islamic and Somali culture. 

 

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