Science & Health

Nigerian Authorities, Partners Raise Concerns of Funding Gaps for TB Programs

On World Tuberculosis Day, Nigeria said cases of the disease increased by nearly 50 percent last year. At a summit Thursday to heighten awareness of the disease, health authorities said to tackle the epidemic, they need to close a huge funding gap.  

At least 200 people attended the ministerial briefing Thursday in Abuja, where health authorities said confirmed cases jumped from about 138,000 in 2020 to more than 207,000 cases last year.

Health minister Osagie Ehanire said the actual number of cases is probably higher.  

“There’s still a significant gap between the estimated and the notified cases,” he said. “The 207,000 which I spoke of represents only 45 percent of what we estimated.” 

Health authorities said the increase was as a result of heightened surveillance and that Nigeria was one of the few countries in the world to sustain its TB detection program despite COVID-19 disruptions. 

Authorities said there is still a huge funding shortage when it comes to tuberculosis interventions, as only 31% of funding needed for TB control in 2020 was achieved. 

“This year’s world TB Day theme, ‘Invest to End TB, Save Lives,’ is a call to action that resonates with the most critical needs of Nigeria’s national TB program,” said Rachel Goldstein, officer for HIV and TB control for the U.S. Agency for International Development. “We know that the program currently has a significant funding gap, and that’s something we’ve got to work together to advocate for additional resources.”  

Every year, about 590,000 new cases of tuberculosis occur in Nigeria, and around 200,000 people die. 

Experts said apart from low awareness, stigmatization prevents early reporting of the disease.

Joyce Agerl was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 2019, but only began her treatment late last year. Now, she’s helping to warn others about the dangers of the disease. 

“For me, one way I’ll help to give more to the society is to talk to someone about TB,” she said, “and another way is to also do my own publicity on social media.” 

Tuberculosis is a bacterial disease that affects the lungs. Nigeria has the sixth-highest TB burden in the world, and has the most cases in Africa.  


Science & Health

Peace in Space Despite War on Earth

NASA says international space cooperation “hasn’t missed a beat” despite Russia’s war on Ukraine and punishing Western sanctions on Moscow. Meanwhile, Europe’s space agency cancels travel plans with Russia, and space station astronauts perform repairs. Arash Arabasadi brings us The Week in Space.]

Science & Health

WHO: Increased Funding Can End Global TB Epidemic

The World Health Organization warns the fight against tuberculosis is at a critical juncture. It says the COVID-19 pandemic has reversed gains made since 2000 in saving lives from the infectious disease. For the first time in over a decade, the WHO says TB deaths increased in 2020.

It says around 1.5 million people died of TB during that pandemic year because of disruptions in services and lack of resources. Most deaths have occurred in developing countries, with conflict affected countries across Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle East at greatest risk.

The director of the WHO’s Global Tuberculosis Program, Tereza Kaseva, says an extra $1.1 billion a year is needed for the development of new tools, especially new vaccines, to achieve the goal of ending TB by 2030.

She says investing in the fight against tuberculosis is a no-brainer given the benefits gained for each dollar spent.

“For every one dollar invested to end TB, 43 is returned as the benefits of a healthier, functioning society…Ending TB by 2030 can lead to avoiding 23.8 million tuberculosis deaths and almost 13 trillion U.S. dollars in economic losses.”

The WHO says extra funding would allow the world to treat 50 million people with TB, including 3.7 million children and 2.2 million with drug-resistant TB. WHO officials say that would be particularly beneficial for children and young adults who lag adults in accessing TB prevention and care.

Team leader of vulnerable populations in the WHO’s global TB program, Kerri Viney, says 1.1 million children and young adolescents become ill with tuberculosis every year.

Economy & business/Silicon Valley & Technology

Seattle-Based Teenager Designed Relocation Website for Ukrainian Refugees

Seattle-based teenager Avi Schiffmann is doing what he can to help Ukrainian refugees. He has launched a website that helps refugees find safe places to stay, matching refugees with people willing to share their homes. Anush Avetisyan has the story, narrated by Anna Rice.

Science & Health

Cameroon Says Hospitals Overwhelmed with Cholera Patients 

Cameroon’s public health ministry says a cholera outbreak is sweeping across the towns of Limbe, Buea and Tiko, near the border with Nigeria.

The government says 12 of the 600 patients rushed to hospitals in those towns died within the past 72 hours.

Nyenti Annereke, director of the Limbe government hospital, said the facility, which has a capacity of 200 beds, has received more than 240 cholera patients.

“We built three tents in Limbe hospital yesterday because patients were at the veranda, in the corridors of the wards,” he said. “All the beds were full. The Tiko district hospital, the capacity also is overpowered. The hospital in Bota is another crisis zone.”

To cope with the overflow, humanitarian workers are helping to erect tents at the hospitals in Limbe and Buea.

Still, The government says many families are rushing their sick relatives to surrounding towns, including Mutengene and Douala, a commercial hub on the Atlantic coast.

Bernard Okalia Bilai, governor of the South West region where Limbe, Tiko and Buea are located, chaired at least three crisis meetings on Wednesday.

Bilai said the cholera outbreak is caused by a shortage of clean drinking water in western towns and villages provoked by the long dry season and civilians should desist from drinking open stream water. He said the disease is spreading fast because cattle and civilians defecate in the open and in rivers.

“Our structures, the hospitals are overloaded, but thank God that the medical officers in charge of those hospitals have been proactive and they have taken measures to receive various patients,” he said. “All the patients are under treatment.”

Bilai said the government will provide water to arid towns like Limbe, Buea and Tiko and surrounding villages but did not say when.

Meanwhile, health officials are moving from door to door encouraging civilians to boil water from wells and streams before drinking it.

The government says people should also eat only properly cooked food and wash their hands before and after meals, and after using the bathroom.

Another cholera outbreak in Cameroon in February affected 1,300 people and killed about three dozen.

Arts & Entertainment/Economy & business

Oscar Preview: 5 Big Questions Ahead of Sunday’s Awards

The Academy Awards have always loved a comeback story. This year, the Oscars are attempting to star in one, too. 

On Sunday, the Academy Awards will try to bounce back from a 2021 ceremony that was plagued by pandemic restrictions, a botched ending and record-low ratings. The 94th Academy Awards will return to their usual home, Los Angeles’ Dolby Theatre, and be broadcast live on ABC beginning at 8 p.m. EDT. (It’s also possible to stream it live on services like Hulu Live TV, YouTubeTV and on with provider authentication.) 

How much of the Oscars’ downturn should be chalked up to COVID-19? How much is it the new normal? These are just some of the questions that hang over an Academy Awards that feels like a crossroads for one of America’s most enduring pop-culture institutions, and still the most-watched annual show outside the Super Bowl. 

Can the Will Packer-produced awards shrug off the pandemic, reverse years of declining ratings for network TV award shows and coalesce a big-tent event for a fast-evolving movie landscape? In the interminable run-up to the springtime Oscars, many in the industry have been skeptical. Which leads us to the first of five questions heading into the show. 

Will the Oscars’ latest makeover work? 

The biggest drama heading into Sunday revolves around a broadcast that has been substantially retooled to stem the ratings slide. As if making up for several host-less years, this time there are three: Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes. Will their combined star power move the needle at all? 

Facing pressure from ABC, the academy will also first present eight categories — production design, editing, sound, score, makeup and hairstyling, and the three short film awards — before the telecast begins. Clips of their wins and speeches will be edited into the show. Critics throughout the industry, though, have lined up to decry the change. The largest union representing behind-the-scenes workers, IATSE, on Monday called the decision detrimental to the “fundamental purpose” of the Oscars. 

So what will Packer do with the extra time? Beyoncé and Billie Eilish will perform their nominated songs. An eclectic group of presenters has also been announced, including some unexpected names like DJ Khaled, Tony Hawk, Sean “Diddy” Combs and Shaun White — so this could finally be the year that Judi Dench learns how to perform a “McTwist.” 

Will a streamer take home Best Picture? 

The two favorites both hail from streaming services, which have ever won best picture.

The lead nominee, Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog,” up for 12 awards, had long been the presumed frontrunner, and possibly Netflix’s best chance yet to win Hollywood’s top award. But after back-to-back wins with the Screen Actors Guild and the Producers Guild, Sian Heder’s deaf family drama “CODA” may have the edge. The film’s deep-pocketed backer, Apple TV+, has spent big to push a feel-good underdog indie to the front of the pack. If “CODA” wins, it will be the first time since 1932’s “Grand Hotel” that a film with fewer than four nominations (“CODA” has three) took best picture. 

Some predictions this year have been wildly off, though, so other nominees like Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast” could still pull off an upset. 

How much will COVID-19 drag down the party? 

Last year’s Oscars decamped to Union Station for an intimate show with a small number of attendees and lots of social distancing. This year, a full stage show and red carpet is planned, albeit with uneven COVID-19 protocols.  

Attendees are required to submit two negative tests and proof of vaccination. Those presenting or performing don’t have to be vaccinated but need recent negative tests. Masks will be in the mix, too, for attendees sitting outside the orchestra at the Dolby and for media on the red carpet. After numerous attendees contracted the virus after attending the March 13 BAFTAs in London, several nominees have been quarantining, including Branagh and “Belfast” co-star Ciarán Hinds. With infection and hospitalization rates way down, Los Angeles County is set to lift many virus restrictions for indoor events on April 1, five days after the Oscars. 

Will Will Smith win his first Oscar? 

Nominated twice before for best actor (for “Ali” and “The Pursuit of Happyness”), Will Smith appears a lock to win his first Academy Award. Smith’s performance as Richard Williams, father to Venus and Serena, in “King Richard” has remained the most likely choice throughout the season. And the speech by the exuberant 53-year-old star should be one of the most lively of the night. A win, though, will have to come over some formidable competition — including the actor who bested Smith’s “Ali” performance 20 years ago: Denzel Washington, a winner then for “Training Day” and a threat this time for “The Tragedy of Macbeth.” 

Who’s set to make history? 

Many of the top awards could feature some major milestones. Ari Wegner, cinematographer of “The Power of Dog,” may become the first woman to ever win that award. Her director, Jane Campion, is also poised to make history. Campion, the first women ever nominated twice for best director, is set to become only the third woman to win the category. It would mark the first time the directing award has ever gone to women in back-to-back years, after “Nomadland” filmmaker Chloé Zhao won last year. 

Troy Kotsur of “CODA” is in line to be the first deaf male actor to win an Oscar. His widely expected win would make him and his “CODA” co-star Marlee Matlin the only deaf actors to land Academy Awards. And supporting actress, which Ariana DeBose seemingly has sewn up for her breakthrough role in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story,” may see the first Afro-Latina and openly LGBTQ actor win in the category. A win for DeBose would come 60 years after Rita Moreno won for the same role, Anita, in the 1961 original. That would be the third time that two actors have won for playing the same role, following Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker, and Marlon Brando and Robert DeNiro as Vito Corleone. But we’ll have to wait and see if DeBose’s “West Side Story” co-star Rachel Zegler is there to cheer her on. 

Arts & Entertainment/Economy & business

Beyoncé, Billie Eilish to Sing Nominated Songs at Oscars

Beyoncé, Billie Eilish and other nominees for best original song will perform at Sunday’s Oscars, the show’s producers announced Tuesday.

Beyoncé will perform her nominated song “Be Alive” from “King Richard,” and Eilish and her brother and co-writer Finneas will perform “No Time To Die” from the James Bond film of the same name. 

Sebastián Yatra will perform “Dos Oruguitas,” the nominated song from “Encanto” written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. 

Reba McEntire will sing writer Diane Warren’s “Somehow You Do” from the film “Four Good Days.” 

Van Morrison, who wrote and sings the nominated song “Down to Joy” from “Belfast,” will not be able to make the show because of his touring schedule. The song will not be performed. 

The original song Academy Award goes to the songwriter, not the artist who performs it, and whoever wins this year will get their first Oscar. 

That includes Beyoncé, a 28-time Grammy winner, who co-wrote “Be Alive” with Dixson. 

Warren was nominated this year for the 13th time but is still seeking her first win.

Miranda will join the elite “EGOT” club of winners of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony should “Dos Oruguitas” win. The song was tapped as the Oscar submission from “Encanto” before another Miranda-penned song from the Disney movie, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” became a runaway hit. 

The Oscars are returning to Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre after the pandemic sent the show to Union Station for a smaller, more intimate ceremony last year.